JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, March 4, 2022 – Healthcare professionals have taken center stage in recent years as COVID-19 swept across the nation and the globe. They donned head-to-toe protective gear, worked long shifts, and stepped up when others fell ill.
While the quality of care didn’t falter, the challenging months took their toll on these healthcare heroes. In a renewed effort to fortify a team of nearly 9,000 healthcare and support personnel, Brooke Army Medical Center has dedicated the month of March to “building back grit and resilience.”
“Team BAMC has faced every obstacle with agility, professionalism and a can-do attitude,” said Brig. Gen. Clinton Murray, BAMC commanding general. “Even as they faced resource and personnel constraints, they sustained the highest level of care both here and in support of military missions around the world.
“However, this sustained operation tempo can lead to burn out and exhaustion,” Murray added. “We want to remind our teammates this month that self-care is just as important as the care they provide to others.”
BAMC kicked off “Grit and Resilience Month” with leadership lining the halls to welcome the morning and night shifts to work. Throughout the month, information on military and family resources will be featured at booths in the medical mall, and the hospital will host resilience-related briefings, roundtables and panels. BAMC is also releasing daily resilience tips on social media to remind people to take time out for themselves.
The information is all centered on the five dimensions of resilience, which are physical, emotional, social, spiritual and family. “Sustaining healthy behaviors within and across these dimensions is essential to personal readiness,” according to the Army Resilience Directorate’s website.
Resilience is a process that requires adoption of productive thoughts, actions and habits that, if not innate, can absolutely be learned, the directorate said. “Resilience is not just about ‘bouncing back’ from major life challenges, it prepares you to deal with life’s challenges by giving you the ability to cope with adversity, adapt to change and thrive under new conditions.”
A common practice to foster productive thoughts is to “Hunt the Good Stuff,” often practiced by writing down positive things that happened that day. Experts laud this practice for its relaxation and decompression effects. Rather than dismiss difficult feelings, it’s a reminder to acknowledge them and to remember the good that’s present each day, experts noted.
Practicing resilience can take many forms. It can be as simple as calling or texting a friend or loved one to maintain social connections or taking a walk to foster wellness and relaxation. To help spark additional ideas, BAMC leaders shared their personal grit and resilience tips:
• “I foster personal resilience by understanding my personality, my passions and my priorities, and ensuring I dedicate the appropriate time and energy to keep them balanced in my life. I ensure I get quiet time, hot tea, and a good workout early in the morning, and then maintain mindfulness of the people and environment around me during the day.” – Army Brig. Gen. Clinton Murray, BAMC commanding general
• When I do something that provides joy in my life, I tend to do my best to do more of that: quality time with my wife and kids, seeing them happy and smiling, working out and being physically fit, kayaking, and developing others to do the same are some examples. Relaxing by the pool with a cool beverage of choice, listening to music and enjoying a camp fire always resets my battery.” – Army Command Sgt. Maj. Thurman Reynolds, BAMC command sergeant major
• “I try to maintain balance in life. Along with the physical realm (working out regularly and watching what I eat and drink), mental realm (I read for study and for fun), I am very intentional about my faith. Every morning, I spend time praying and reading scripture. I recently started lighting a candle and incense while I do this. It is not a 'normal' part of my faith tradition, but I have been practicing this as it reminds me to 'slow down' in my morning devotional times and not rush my time with God.” – Army Chaplain (Col.) Stanley Smith, BAMC command chaplain
• “I try to focus on what I can presently control or influence vs. things that I have no control over, or that may or may not happen in the future. I block out time at work to mentor and invest in individuals, which is something that gives me personal satisfaction. My faith is important to me, and when I’m feeling less resilient, it means it’s time to look at what I’m doing to invest in that. And I’m deliberate about spending time, laughing and playing with the people that I love the most, my family and close friends.” – Air Force Col. Heather Yun, Deputy Commander for Medical Services
• “Faith and family centered on an enduring relationship with my wife/best friend and our children, and supplemental infusion with Diet Mountain Dew, are the basis of my personal resilience.” – Dr. Evan Renz, Deputy to the Commander Quality and Safety
• “I prioritize, adjust when needed, and remind myself of the why. When I’m tasked with a number of things to accomplish and more are added to that list, sometimes I have to step back and determine which is most important. At times they are all important, but there is always a ranking order of importance, and I remain flexible, readjust the priority, and press on. Furthermore, I ask myself, ‘Why is this task more important than another’ or ‘Why am I doing this particular task or assignment?’ Lastly, I remind myself of my personal why when it comes to everything I do, and that is my daughter.” – Air Force Master Sgt. Barbara J. Lay, enlisted advisor to the Deputy Commander of Health Readiness
Leaders hope the self-care reminders and resilience tips shared throughout the month will have a lasting impact on BAMC’s most important asset, its people, Murray noted.
“Team BAMC is phenomenal, and I have no doubt they will continue the mission without skipping a beat no matter what the challenge,” he said. “But, it’s all too easy to put yourself on the backburner to take care of others. I hope this month serves as a gentle reminder to place renewed importance on your health and wellbeing.”
This month also serves as reminder to keep an eye out for those who may be struggling to stay resilient and to encourage them to get help if needed, the commander said. “If you’re feeling burned out or exhausted, please reach out to someone, whether it’s a colleague, supervisor, your chain of command, chaplain or counselor. Don’t suffer in silence. We all need support and a helping hand at times.”
For information on Joint Base San Antonio military and family programs and services, visit https://www.jbsa.mil/Resources/Military-Family-Readiness/. For behavioral health resources, visit https://www.jbsa.mil/Resources/Medical/Mental-and-Behavioral-Health-Services/ or for immediate assistance, call 911 or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.