Civilian Skills Operate in Harmony

Story Number: NNS190205-11Release Date: 2/5/2019 2:36:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Terah Bryant, Commander, Navy Reserve Force Public Affairs

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- The sweet spot, where both Navy Reserve and civilian careers function in harmony, is where Lt. Cmdr. Megan Debus found herself during her latest annual training orders.

For the last several years, her normal two-week Reserve duty had her assisting patients recovering from surgery or acute illness. Debus excels in her role as a Navy nurse, but it differs from her day-to-day job as an emergency room nurse at a level-one hospital in Rockford, Illinois.

Until this year, her civilian and military expertise rarely crossed paths, but a unique orders processing step at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia, brought the two together.

The staff at NMCP were able to review Debus’ resume before she was brought to the medical center on orders. When they saw the extensive amount of experience she had accumulated in the emergency room, the staff decided she was a perfect fit to fill an urgent need in the Progressive Care Unit where patients need continuous observation after surgery.

The resume review not only got her the job, but also smoothed out NMCP’s transition from active to Reserve medical staffing — a mutual benefit. After only a day immersing herself in the medical center’s procedures and proper charting, Debus was up to speed and ready to work.

Taking the extra step in considering civilian expertise impressed Debus.

“It helps get the right people in the right positions,” she said, adding that NMCP’s understanding of her background allowed the nursing staff to be more comfortable with her joining the team, and allowed her to further perfect her medical skills in a less frantic environment.

Capt. Carolyn Rice, executive officer for the medical center, said her entire command appreciates the level of support received from Reservists like Debus.

“We have been so impressed with the flood of Reserve support and the leadership that made it happen,” Rice said. “Equally critical to our partnership is the fact that the Reservists come in as a medically-ready force.”

In contrast to Debus, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Meghan Hockstock chose to apply for training orders at NMCP because they had an opening for a hospital corpsman possessing her unique leadership skills and sterilization experience. Another motivation was that NMCP is within commuting distance from her home.

“Living locally and already knowing people helped my transition to be smoother,” Hockstock said, who as a civilian works for a dermatology practice in Virginia Beach.

In the Navy, she serves as the senior enlisted leader of the Operational Health Support Unit Reserve team. Her unit’s augmentation at the medical center serves as the Reserve surgery team supporting orthopedic cases at the medical center. While the NMCP operating room staff benefits from the extra help, they in-turn provide on-the-job training for the Sailors.

For her latest orders, Hockstock’s civilian-built knowledge of sterile technique and the use of instruments helped her integration into the operating room team, but it wasn’t seamless.

“There were hiccups getting into the flow at first, but that’s expected when you pull a team of people you’ve never worked with before,” she said. “They put our active counterparts with us to show us the ropes, making sure we knew their equipment along with policies and procedures.”

The active-duty instruction helped the Reserve team find their workflow and allowed them to quickly be working primarily on their own, averaging six operating room cases a day. When not in the operating room, the Sailors took advantage of additional training in the hospital’s simulation lab.

Each year, Hockstock looks forward to her annual training as the experiences at the medical center provide her with new skills she can take back to her civilian career.

“It enhances my skills, but also gives me added skills that I can take back,” she said. “I now have more knowledge of the operating room.”

NMCP’s efforts putting to work the Reserve forces’ unique military and civilian expertise are supporting the Navy’s total force. Debus and Hockstock are just two examples of the hundreds of Reserve Sailors who annually don their uniforms and scrubs in support of the medical center’s service to the military community.

The support is summarized by OHSU Portsmouth Commanding Officer Capt. Alison Eagleton.

“Our Sailors arrive highly educated and it’s imperative we leverage their skills,” she said. “Our goal is to have a seamless force. We are integrated to the point that you can’t tell who is Reserve or active duty.”

This article first appeared in The Navy Reservist magazine. To read the current issue of TNR, visit

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Civilian Skills Operate in Harmony
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Meghan Hockstock spent her annual training days last year working at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia. Hockstock, a Reserve Sailor, was selected for a position at NMCP due to her civilian experiences in the medical field. (U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Terah Bryant)
February 4, 2019
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