ARLINGTON, Va. -- New Recovery Care Coordinators learned skills and strategies to help them build and maintain resilience and manage stress during the recent Recovery Care Coordinator Training hosted by the Office of Warrior Care Policy on July 14, 2016.
Dr. Gloria Park, a Master Resilience Trainer-Performance Expert with the Army's Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program taught skills at the training meant to help coordinators care for themselves and prioritize their well-being, which ultimately will enhance their ability to focus on caring for wounded, ill and injured service members and their caregivers.
"Recovery Care Coordinators have a lot to shoulder because they play a vital role in the recovery of our service members," said Park. "If they aren't taking the time to recharge and recover, they may experience a negative impact on their own personal health, which will impact the other people in their lives and the people they are serving."
Recovery Care Coordinators provide proactive support to wounded, ill and injured service members by developing a Comprehensive Recovery Plan that identifies goals and the resources needed to achieve a successful recovery. Their responsibilities include ongoing coordination of non-medical resources to ensure service members and their caregivers receive the support they require when navigating the recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration, or transition process.
Those who serve in care coordinator roles may experience compassion fatigue and burn-out, which can result in a number of negative consequences, such as decreased concentration, increased anxiety, changes in sleep and appetite, distrust in others and low motivation, says Park. This can then lead to a gradual erosion of attributes that support connections to others, including empathy, hope and compassion, which are key to the role of a Recovery Care Coordinator.
Park says there are proactive and deliberate solution strategies that, if practiced and made part of a daily routine, can help Recovery Care Coordinators stay resilient and protect against compassion fatigue and burn-out. These include becoming more in tune to indicators of resilience, maintaining good physical health, and fostering positive social relationships.
During the training, Park taught three skills: Character Strengths, Energy Management and Hunt the Good Stuff.
"Recovery Care Coordinators can learn about their signature character strengths so that they can bring the best of who they are more fully to their role of helping others, leading them to feel more energized in their day-to-day tasks, rather than depleted. Energy Management can help raise awareness of when our energy reserve is low, and provides strategies to help disarm that fight or flight reaction that can bleed our energy. Hunt the Good Stuff is a skill that builds optimism and helps us to shift attention to what's right with life, which can be critical in balancing our perspective when enduring through tough times. " Park said.
TAKE TIME FOR A DEBRIEF
Ebonie Washington, one of the coordinators attending the training, says one of the strategies she uses is to "debrief" the day during her one-hour commute home.
"I also take a moment for myself before work and again after lunch," said Washington, who is a Transition Coordinator and helps wounded, ill and injured service members who are transitioning out of the military, or who are already out of the military, with jobs, education, and Veterans Affairs benefits. She says these moments help her process her cases and keeps her from bringing her work home.
Park tells the coordinators that she's heard first-hand how frustrating the process can be for these service members as well as Recovery Care Coordinators. "The service members don't know what's within their control or out of their control. They learn to be helpless," Park said. "This can be really difficult for Recovery Care Coordinators because they are helping these service members navigate through this system, which can be challenging."
Washington says her biggest take-away from the training was learning the skill of Energy Management. "If I exhaust all my energy, what do I have left? I realize that if I don't take care of myself, fatigue is going to set in," she said.
During the training, Park references the oxygen mask instructions often given prior to a plane taking off: If you can't help yourself, you're not going to be able to help other people. "It's important that these Recovery Care Coordinators find a way to disconnect once in a while, which will help them maintain a positive attitude, and a level of energy and motivation that can be passed along to those who have come to them for help," said Park.
For more information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program, visit csf2.army.mil. For more information about Warrior Care Policy's Recovery Coordination Program, visit http://warriorcare.dodlive.mil/wounded-warrior-resources/recovery-coordination/.