FORT POLK, La. –
Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital received manning assistance from the U.S. Navy to support warfighters at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) and Fort Polk, Louisiana.
With a fully staffed orthopedics team and continuous airborne operations at JRTC and Fort Polk, the operating rooms (OR) at BJACH are full with procedures every day. In order to ensure continuous timely support, Lt. Col. Jerry Gostnell, chief of anesthesia at BJACH, identified a short-term staffing shortage and immediately requested assistance from the Defense Health Agency.
Gostnell said that, under the Defense Health Agency, there is a total force approach with centralized manpower management for all military treatment facilities (MTFs). This means that when short-term staffing shortages occur, MTFs are able to request support within the Markets and within DHA and surge that support in a timely, efficient manner.
In April, Lt. Mia Galassi, a certified nurse anesthetist assigned to Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune (NMCCL) in North Carolina, joined the BJACH OR to help augment operations. Galassi was an intensive care unit nurse before becoming a CRNA.
Lt. Cmdr. Peter Willett, department head for anesthesia at NMCCL said he was proud to support BJACH's manning request.
"Lt. Galassi has an expeditionary mindset and is always up for a challenge, so it was no surprise that she immediately volunteered for the short assignment to help their operating rooms," Willett said. "When she returns, she'll bring back to the department a broadened, multi-service experience."
Galassi said she is no stranger to working in a Joint environment and that her first duty station was at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
"I grew up in the military around Army and Air Force personnel. Most of my leadership throughout my career has been Army," Galassi said. "I like working with other branches of service and when my leadership told me about the opportunity to help out at BJACH I volunteered to come."
Galassi said she always knew she wanted to go into anesthesia and the Navy's program has a very good reputation.
Retired 1st Sgt. Cleophus Graves recently had meniscus repair surgery May 25 at BJACH.
"Lt. Galassi was the last person I spoke to before my surgery and the first person I saw when I woke up in the recovery room," he said. "This was my fifth knee surgery and she did a really good job explaining what was happening with the anesthesia and the nerve block. Her bedside manner was great and settled my nerves before heading into the OR."
Graves said he noticed her badge said lieutenant but her pay grade was O3.
"I asked her if she was in the Navy, because I knew Navy lieutenants are the equivalent pay grade as Army captains," he said. "That's when I learned she was here from Camp Lejeune and had been at Fort Polk since April supporting our hospital."
Galassi said she knew coming here would benefit the patients and have a positive impact on access to care.
"During my short time in the military, I've had the opportunity to go to a lot of different military installations," she said. "Fort Polk is really beautiful and the post has a lot to offer. The people at BJACH have been great, I've been impressed with their goodwill and kindness. Everyone works well together and I've gotten a chance to meet some great people here."
Galassi said she's always willing to challenge herself and take opportunities when she can.
"I always tell people, when you feel comfortable in a room, it's time to leave that room," she said. "It's really good to challenge yourself. I think it's important for personal and professional growth to diversify your experiences."
Willett said it's beneficial for Sailors to work with and support other military branches.
"Fundamentally, our goal is to support the warfighter and that extends to our sister services. When Fort Polk announced that anesthesia staffing shortages would potentially lead to cancelled surgeries, we recognized that meant delayed care, reduction in medical readiness, and degraded capabilities," he said. "In the spirit of our shared medical mission, and in support of a medically ready force, we were happy to assist keeping their operating rooms open."
Editor Note: Special Thanks to Riley Eversull, Public Affairs Officer, NMCCL, for her coordination on this story.