SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines occupational stress as "the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker."
That stress can lead to poor health, injury, and a decline in work performance. For service members, it can jeopardize the mission. For caregivers, it can lead to errors that mean the difference between life and death.
Seeking to mitigate the detrimental effects of that stress, Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control (NCCOSC) staff members provided Caregiver Occupational Stress Control (CgOSC) instructor trainer course instruction to 14 personnel assigned to the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) March 5-10. This is the first time the principles of CgOSC have been brought to Sailors assigned to an operational platform.
CgOSC is a variation on the Combat and Operational Stress Control (COSC) Doctrine, which was established in 2010 and the focus of which is a culture of support for psychological health, a full continuum of excellent care, sufficient and appropriate resources, and visible empowered leaders. CgOSC was implemented by the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) to help Navy caregivers identify and mitigate occupational stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue.
The CgOSC training instruction provided by NCCOSC did just that for the 14 Mercy Sailors, who learned the principles of caregiver and occupational stress first aid (COSFA)-providing continuous, primary, and secondary aid to fellow caregivers and shipmates showing signs of stress through the seven Cs: check, coordinate, cover, calm, connect, competence, and confidence.
They explored resilience-building skills like optimism, flexible thinking, behavior control, positive coping, and control and acceptance; and they discovered how to identify their own stress levels or those of a shipmate by using the stress continuum (which divides the varying degrees of stress into green, yellow, orange, and red zones; or ready, reacting, injured, and ill, respectively). The goal: to help the Sailors recognize early stress indicators in themselves or their shipmates.
The course gave the Sailors the opportunity to work as a team, get a better understanding of each other, and dispel any preconceived notions they may have held about each other or the stigma associated with occupational stress.
"The training was very useful, especially with the different group activities we did and being able to react and interact with each other," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Samuel Maxey, leading petty officer of Mercy's biomedical department. "It was very interesting to see how everyone thinks and hear all the different ideas and experiences everyone brought to the table."
Three of the Sailors who attended the course serve onboard Mercy in the non-medical fields of aviation, supply, and personnel, yet they found common ground in the principles of CgOSC and recognized its value to Sailors throughout the Navy, regardless of career field.
"As active-duty Sailors we encounter people all the time who are so close to being excellent Sailors but there may be something holding them back, and I think there are a lot of strategies in this course that can help motivate them and get people over the top," said Lt. Cmdr. Pete Bradford, a nurse and the division officer of Naval Medical Center San Diego's main operating room.
The train-the-trainer format of the course allowed the students to turn the tables and become the instructors during the teach-back portion. The teach-back serves as valuable practice for when they will share their knowledge of CgOSC with other members of Mercy's crew. The timing couldn't be more appropriate-the skills the Sailors learned will come in handy when Mercy and her crew deploy for Pacific Partnership 2015 this summer, when they're likely to be exposed to stressful situations that could impact their resilience.
But the Sailors aren't waiting until Mercy pulls up anchor in the San Diego Harbor to put their newfound knowledge to work.
"They're already implementing their skills of identifying, intervening, and engaging their shipmates on their stress reactions and stress injuries," said Cmdr. Jean Fisak, deputy director, NCCOSC, revealed proudly, saying she'd received a note a couple days after the training had wrapped, informing her that the Sailors were in their office quizzing each other about which zone they were in on the stress continuum-a testament to their commitment to their shipmates and the value of the CgOSC course.
NCCOSC will continue to provide CgOSC instruction in the 'train-the-trainer' concept throughout 2015, so newly-trained caregivers can then provide the training to others in their respective commands.
To learn more about Caregiver Occupational Stress Control (CgOSC), watch NCCOSC's presentation on the topic at the 2014 COSC Symposium: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9KhelTpTYk, visit
http://ow.ly/Kryfs, or connect with us on social media: www.facebook.com/nccosc and www.twitter.com/nccosc.
For more news from Naval Center for Combat & Operational Stress Control , visit www.navy.mil/local/nccosc/.