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Thursday, November 10, 2022
Working at Oregon State Hospital is a call to service for many employees who choose to work at the state's psychiatric hospital. That mission-driven purpose also attracts many veterans who are seeking opportunities for teamwork that support a common goal.
“It's a unique environment with a very challenging mission," said Adam Giblin, OSH security operations manager. “We understand the mission. We understand accomplishing the mission and here, the mission is patients receiving treatment."
Giblin is one of more than 400 veterans who work at OSH, and that count is likely an underestimate since employees voluntarily self-identify their veteran status. However, a count within Giblin's work area showed that 41 veterans who are directly responsible for the safety and security of patients, employees and visitors. They represent nearly 30% of the teams' currently filled positions.
Brandon Shiro is one of the newer members of the OSH security team. He spent four years on active duty in the U.S. Army. He deployed to Afghanistan quickly after he entered and later joined the Michigan National Guard before moving out west. He started work at the hospital in October, and the pull of working and being supported by a team drew him to the position, he said.
“When I started, I didn't know a lot about working in a psychiatric hospital setting. In my training, I learned more about the patients here and the help they need. I felt something in me click. I knew I needed to be here," he said. “I've liked it so far because it's a team environment. It supports my training and core values of selfless service, integrity, and teamwork. I'm still in the learning process, but I know I have a lot of people supporting me."
Many veterans may find themselves working in private security or law enforcement after they retire or are discharged from the military. These work environments prioritize order and maintaining the safety of people and property. Veterans may also gravitate to those industries because of the expectation that they may find other veterans – and a sense of mutual experience and understanding, said Marshall Jennings, an OSH occupational safety specialist who retired from the U.S. Air Force after 20 years.
“I think veterans look for something in their comfort zone," Jennings said. “You're in the mindset of serving your country and now you're doing it in a different way. This feels like a service. Security and safety, we do this for the staff."
Jennings was an explosive specialist and said that not many potential employers understood the valuable transferable skills that came with that expertise – which includes keen situational awareness, staying calm under pressure and above all, a commitment to safety.
The security and safety teams provide support throughout the hospital. Employees on those teams monitor the hospital, provide patient transport, and provide trainings to keep employees safe. Part of their role includes supporting staff and patients through medical, behavioral and other emergencies.
U.S. Air Force veteran Chris Rouse joined the OSH security team in 2014, when the hospital was opening its Junction City campus. At the time, he was seeking opportunities that combined what he loved most from his careers in the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) and as a safety officer with the University of Oregon (UO) – a person-centered approach to safety and security. Working at DOC as a corrections officer, Rouse said he observed the need for specialized care for general population inmates with mental illness. As a university public safety officer with UO, he gained experience with de-escalation techniques and safely interacting with both students and staff with behavioral health needs, and also community members.
“For me, it's serving and using the skills I've developed over the years," Rouse said. “I'm best suited here, I'd say. It's not like what's portrayed on TV or in the newspaper. It takes a special type of person, and you have to be able to empathize. If you have an ego, you don't belong here."
Those skills gained through military service are invaluable to any employer, noted Giblin. He served for seven years in the U.S. Army and was sent on missions to Iraq and Afghanistan. The experiences gained through training and deployment internationally proved to be invaluable to his current work environment, he said.
“I've had to work through language and cultural barriers and knowing how to do that translates well here," he said. “Working with a psychiatric patient who is experiencing psychosis in a way is a language barrier. It's important to know how to communicate, and through our military training, we're used to safely navigating situations where there are barriers to communication."
Giblin said he was not surprised by the high number of veterans who are employees at the hospital and noted that many of them are active reservists.
“I think the overall team dynamic is what draws them here," he said. “That and the challenge is what drew me. Every day has been a challenge since I started. Those challenges are made all the better when you have a team you know can accomplish any task before you. We are doing good here."
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