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    Corpsman Up! – Roseburg VA adds former corpsman, Eugene teacher to COVID-19 response

    Corpsman Up! – Roseburg VA adds former corpsman, Eugene teacher to COVID-19 response

    Photo By T. T. Parish | Dr. Grant Schmidt and Tracy Collier work together at the Roseburg VA Health Care...... read more read more



    Story by T. T. Parish 

    Roseburg VA Health Care System

    Usually, in combat, cries of “Corpsman!” or “Medic!” are a signal that something very bad has happened. Carrying weapons, ammunition, body armor, a pack and lifesaving medical supplies, “Docs” run to danger to preserve life in the face of flying bullets, raining mortars or hidden booby traps while their comrades search out enemies on the battlefield.

    During WWII, Army corporal Desmond Doss saved the lives of some 75 of his fellow soldiers atop a shattered crest now known as Hacksaw Ridge on the blood-soaked island of Okinawa. Doss, despite severe wounds and not carrying a weapon – he was and is the only conscientious objector to ever earn the Medal of Honor – crawled under intense enemy fire across the scorched ridge with almost no cover or concealment, rappelling each casualty down a 40 foot cliff to safety before ascending again and again to retrieve the next man.

    Today, during the Roseburg VA Health Care System’s response to COVID-19, former members of the enlisted medical field, known as Hospital Corpsmen in the Navy and Medics in the Army and Air Force, are answering a different call to service: the Intermediate Care Technician (ICT) program.

    “I love knowing that I am able to help fellow servicemembers again,” said Tracy Collier, a former Fleet Marine Force Hospital Corpsman and native of Roseburg, Oregon. “Once I was out of the Navy, I missed my family so very much. Civilians just don't get it. Being back at the VA, I may be young enough to be most of my patient's granddaughter, but we all served. Being a former history teacher, I understand even more.”

    Collier, who served on active duty from 1997 to 2001 and in the Navy Reserve from 2001 to 2004, was recalled to active duty to support Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 as part of I Marine Expeditionary Force. As part of the ICT program, Collier supports the RVAHCS Urgent Care nursing staff each day, starting IVs, running electrocardiograms, drawing lab samples and patient transport – all routine duties she learned while in the Navy, according to Collier.

    “This is an amazing opportunity to continue to support and help patients,” said Collier. “Already knowing how to do many of the medical procedures is a huge jump on other medical support people wanting to get their foot in the door. We already have all the experience.”

    Collier, a resident of Lebanon whose work as a special education teacher at North Eugene High School was interrupted by COVID-19, commutes to Roseburg on Mondays, returning home on Friday to spend the weekend with her children. She is grateful for the support of her family and church community who allow her to carry the mantle of serving Veterans during an unprecedented health care crisis. This ‘deployment’ is much different than her support of OIF in 2003, she said, though technology and community support have helped her maintain focus on the duties at hand.

    “This deployment has had a lot of extra challenges added to it compared to 2003. I'm much older now. I have children and own a house. I had a full-time job teaching for the Eugene School District,” said Collier. “But I'm so thankful for modern technology and my ability to FaceTime my kids during my lunch break daily … and my aunt has been living with me for the past year, so she is able to hold down the house. The wonderful members of my church have also been more than willing to step-up with yardwork. So, when I drive home Friday after shift, it’s all mommy and kids time until I leave again Monday afternoon.”

    During the RVAHCS COVID-19 response, many normal face-to-face services – routine and specialty care – were curtailed to help prevent the spread of the virus to Veterans and staff at each of the Roseburg VA’s five facilities across Southern Oregon. Many of the facility’s Veterans are in the ‘high-risk’ population for COVID-19 and, as a precaution, face-to-face interactions and appointments were rescheduled as virtual appointments to prevent wider spread of the virus, with many providers and staff working remotely. A critical stopgap to prevent major interruptions to high-quality care that could not be completed virtually have been the ICTs, according to Dr. Grant Schmidt, director of the Roseburg VA Urgent Care.

    “Our nurses are very busy. ICT’s have a critical role to help the department flow, and in direct patient care,” said Schmidt, a former Army radio operator originally from the San Francisco area. “With ICT’s, we are able to have more patient contact and direct personal care to each Veteran.”

    Schmidt, who has been at the helm of the Urgent Care for five months, previously worked as a physician for the Navy for 12 years. Working alongside Corpsmen in uniform, he realized the importance of customer service and individualized care support staff offer to physicians in the military – and, like their counterparts in the military, ICTs connect in a unique way with Veterans based on common experience.

    “Many times [Corpsmen and Medics] are the only health care provider available in very stressful or dangerous situations and, therefore, are well respected by the troops and Sailors. Many of our Veterans have had interaction with the “Docs” during their tours of duty, so there is a familiarity with our ICT’s that only a Veteran can experience,” said Schmidt. “Not only is there an instant rapport with our Veterans, but the ICT’s are able to do a lot of the work that our nurses would otherwise be tasked with, thereby freeing up the nurses to perform more critical or urgent procedures. ICT’s are a great addition to our clinic and improve the overall health care experience of our Veterans.”

    Point of contact for this release is Tim Parish, Public Affairs Officer, Roseburg VA Health Care System;; 541-440-3026.



    Date Taken: 06.05.2020
    Date Posted: 06.05.2020 13:24
    Story ID: 371546
    Location: ROSEBURG, OR, US 
    Hometown: EUGENE, OR, US
    Hometown: LEBANON, OR, US
    Hometown: ROSEBURG, OR, US

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