FORT DRUM, New York - Healthcare professionals at Fort Drum's Behavioral Health clinic received hands-on training on methods to de-escalate a delicate situation when a patient becomes unruly or combative during a mock drill at the Wilcox Behavioral Health clinic on Fort Drum Aug. 8.
The training, organized by the U.S. Army Medical Department Activity (MEDDAC), Fort Drum's Health Education and Training department, was designed to show behavioral health nurses proper techniques and procedures for calming a patient down while providing a way ahead for the patient in a non-confrontational manner.
"I think the training is helpful, especially for new nurses," said Dr. Morgan Kurmp, the chief of MEDDAC's Health Education and Training department. "They worked very hard to come up with a situation that would be an everyday kind of patient and what they would do for a treatment plan for that patient."
The training event was conducted as part of a new health education endeavor by the Health Education and Training team. In the past, multiple departments would come together on a specific training day and work on generic skills which may not always be relevant to specific areas or departments.
Now, the Health Education and Training team takes the time to travel to individual clinics and departments to conduct hands-on training relevant to the areas they're visiting.
"Every department has unique criteria and they have different types of patients," Said Krump. "A nurse is a nurse; however, they're all doing different skills. In this case, a lot of their skills are critical thinking and therapeutic communication."
For this particular training event, the exercise began with Susan Heap, a nurse case manager with the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry)'s embedded behavioral health, starting a consultation with a role-playing patient. The role-player, playing the part of a Soldier, had become aggravated at the number of appointments she had to attend before knowing when and if she could get back to work.
Shortly after the consultation began, the role-player started raising her voice and becoming more and more combative with Heap. Eventually, Heap was able to calm her patient down by drawing on her experience and training in order to get to a point where the patient became responsive to Heap's treatment plan.
"I think the training went very well," Heap said. "Every day we see a multitude of different personalities, different ranks of Soldiers, different (jobs), so we have to be able to talk to them, make them feel that everything's going to be okay, that we have a handle on what's going on and that we're going to be able to help guide them through the whole scenario of what they're up against."
During the training, other behavioral health nurses observed the confrontation and took notes to help them better understand how to de-escalate a potentially hostile situation.
"To see a seasoned nurse who's been doing this for a long time and how they handle a situation gives other nurses ideas on how to change their practice and how to use other best practices so they can improve their everyday patient care," Krump said.
Heap emphasized the reason some patients may get hostile toward their care is because of the negative stigma that's often associated with seeking behavioral health treatment. However, she wants all Soldiers to know that seeking care for their emotional health is not at all a career killer.
"In fact, the Army has realized that people need help; people need somewhere to go to vent some of this stuff out," Heap said. "They just need somebody that's going to be there to listen and help them get the services they need."
When asked about her experience with senior leaders and their views on behavioral health, Heap said, "The commanders have been spectacularly supportive. All the ones I have worked with have been a tremendous help, are very involved and are genuinely concerned with their Soldiers' wellbeing."
Heap highly recommends anyone, Soldier or Family member, experiencing behavioral and emotional difficulties should seek help immediately, and that doesn't necessarily mean going straight to the Behavioral Health clinic if they're not comfortable at first.
"Come in as soon as you feel the need to talk to somebody and know there are other resources if you don't want to come to behavioral health," she said. "You have the chaplain, the chaplain's assistant, (Military and Family Life Counseling Program, or) MFLC providers - there are a lot of different routes you can take without having to come directly to behavioral health."
Those wishing to seek behavioral health services should contact the Fort Drum MEDDAC appointment line at (315) 772-2778, make an appointment online at www.TRICAREOnline.com or contact their respective embedded behavioral health specialist.