Joint Forces Train in Comfort Physical Therapy Department

Story Number: NNS070720-04Release Date: 7/20/2007 11:35:00 AM
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By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jeff Hall, USNS Comfort Public Affairs

USNS COMFORT, At Sea (NNS) -- The staff of U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort's (T-AH 20) physical therapy department brings a variety of skills that continue to expand as a result of their experiences during their four-month humanitarian deployment to Latin America and the Caribbean.

"The physical therapy division itself is a very unique department," said Lt. Gwendolyn Smith, the department's officer in charge. "We have a Canadian therapist, a Navy therapist and three Air Force technicians. It gives us a good balance, a good mix and diversity. It also gives us a good opportunity for us to learn from each other and bring a different set of skills to the table for us to do our job. It has worked out really well."

The therapists provide a variety of care options for their patients, which include personnel aboard the ship and patients in the countries they visit during the deployment.

"Here on the ship we try to take care of all of our team that hurt themselves in the line of duty," said Master Sgt. Dennis Fulmer, an Air Force physical therapist attached to Comfort. "Once we are on shore we treat as many people as we can for muscular-skeletal disorders, any type of impairment that could require orthotics, knee sleeves, splinting, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis - things of that nature. We try to provide a service that won't require long-term, extensive follow-up afterwards."

The different specialties allow service members to cross-train.

"My background is in occupational therapy," said Fulmer. "Everybody that works here brings with them their own expertise, so collectively we are able to handle just about anything that is thrown at us, and to provide the best possible service for the patients."

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