CAMDEN, N.J. –
In a packed room at Cooper University Health Care Center, in Camden, NJ hospital staff and US Army representatives gathered to officially recognize a partnership between the hospital, the community, and US Army Medicine. New Jersey Congressman Donald Norcross said it best when he commented on the importance of community partners. “We as a community come together as one because of this great nation.”
The congressman added that this partnership is ultimately going to prevent deaths. “Cooper Hospital has an amazing legacy, and at the end of the day it's about people; it’s about soldiers and it's about our military. It’s the difference between a soldier coming home to see their family and that elusive knock at the door that they didn’t make it.”
The program is the result of a 2017 congressional mandate directing the U.S. Military Health System to partner and train with high-volume civilian trauma centers in order to improve readiness for deployment to combat zones. Under the plan, a U.S. Army Surgeon, emergency medicine physician, a nurse anesthetist, an intensive care nurse, and an emergency nurse are stationed at the partner hospitals for three years in order to fully integrate with their civilian counterparts in a high-volume trauma center.
Cooper currently has five Active Duty Army officers stationed at the hospital with a few more arriving shortly, and each is recognizable by their camouflage scrubs. “They stand out,” says Colonel Jason Seery, MD, AMCT3 Director, and Surgeon.
Cooper Health is the first partner in a plan of several more set to roll out throughout the nation. Army Brig. Gen. Telita Crosland, commanding general, Regional Health Command-Atlantic says “we are going to get a capability from a civilian counterpart who will ultimately help us be better at our jobs."
The National Institute of Health released a study in 2002 which directly correlates why this partnership is not only beneficial for the community, but for military medicine as well. The 1998 trial determined that “further training of military teams in civilian trauma centers should be investigated. A 1-month training experience at a civilian trauma center provided military general surgeons with a greater trauma experience than they receive in 1 year at their home station."
Military District of Washington’s 1st Army Medical Recruiting Battalion Company commander Capt. Blake Corbitt says “this is the future of Army medicine and partnerships such as this show that the Army is heading in the right direction. Whether we are kinetic or not, overseas, or whether we are at full operational capacity for war, what this means is that our surgeons will possess the ability to be trained at the top level of their practice so they can have the proper experience to be successful both in the Army and their community. It also speaks to the level of expertise that Army medicine can provide to those they serve - the warfighter and their families. As far as US Army Medical Recruiting is concerned, this is the future of army medicine; our health care soldiers have this great opportunity to be professionally trained in civilian medicine which will ultimately provide better care for the soldiers in the field.”
“A lot of what we do in the military health care network touches the civilian community aspect. Conceptually, we have teamed up with a civilian organization before, however, this is the first time we [the Army] officially say we are partnering with the intent of making us better” not only in a deployed environment but in all of Army medicine added Crosland.
When asked about the ability to keep quality health care soldiers to stay in the Army, Gen. Crosland said “there’s an added opportunity for retention of our active duty healthcare soldiers. The biggest reason health care workers leave the Army is because of their lack of ability to practice the full scope of their potential. But when we interact and partner with the civilian hospitals, we address that gap and concern while creating a win-win model. Not only can they be highly proficient, but they can leverage the best of the best in the civilian community, and that’s what all docs want. We are putting docs in close proximity to work with the best of the best, and that’s how you want to live your life as a physician, nurse, or medic. You want to do the best you can, and this is a great example of how we can do that."
Telling the Army story is what convinces people to realize they too can join. Crosland summed it up by explaining that Cooper Hospital has an Army story that dates back decades. Each health care worker who interacts with one of our team gets “to be the messenger of the message. They get to be a part of the team by either working alongside the team or joining the team. When you can get someone else to tell the Army story, that’s the best-recruiting tools out there, and Cooper creates the opportunity for that.”