By SSgt Alexandra Longfellow | 21ST SPACE WING PUBLIC AFFAIRS
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The 21st Medical Group has stood up two operations in the matter of days, showcasing the true readiness capabilities of the group as a whole. Capt. Jennifer Shoemake, 21 MDG clinical team chief, and Capt. Lorna Neeley, 21 MDG patient administration team chief, have been vital in the efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 with stand-up of the Point of Testing Center and the more recent drive-thru pharmacy.
“Our most valuable assets are our personnel who can adjust to quickly changing environments and meet the needs of our beneficiaries,” Neeley said. “With the set-up of the drive-thru pharmacy, we see not only our medics in action but our trained augmentees stepping in to keep our base and their entire population safe.”
Both Shoemake and Neeley train base augmentees on proper protocol to dispense hundreds of pharmaceuticals to beneficiaries while patients never need to leave their vehicles. “Without the Airmen serving as augmentees, the pharmacy operations would be unable to add these enhanced safety precautions,” Shoemake said.
“This mission could not exist without them.” With a robust Air Force Medical Service training program, Neeley said these are the moments when she taps into all the lessons learned and hands-on-training she has received. “Although we have not trained on these specific constructs, using the foundation provided we are able to come up with a deployed-like setting operation and execution to ensure we meet not only Air Force mandates, but in this case, the CDCs evolving guidance, meeting our number one priority of patient and staff safety, while delivering benefits,” Neeley said. Shoemake agrees with Neeley and states she and her team have needed to flex and evolve throughout this pandemic.
“As a nurse practitioner, I am well aware that medicine is also constantly evolving and we must be willing to acknowledge that in order to keep our patients safe,” Shoemake said. “In this environment we are not only responsible for our patients, but even more so our Airmen. They are the most limited resource and without them, we would not be able to fulfill the mission.”
Part of their work not only includes training augmentees, but their staff on personal protective equipment. As guidance comes down, direction changes regularly. Shoemake and Neeley need to ensure everyone is using the most current recommendations. “We worry about the team with PPE, shelters for inclement weather and making sure our people wash their uniforms daily,” Shoemake said. “It is very big stuff, but it’s the little stuff, too.”
They both say they are doing what they can to make sure people can continue to complete the mission safely. “These are the times in the Air Force that you are given the opportunity to step up and you learn what people are really capable of,” Neeley said. “New bonds of friendship and camaraderie are born. As the stress levels mount and people get tired, we need to lean on our team. That has definitely happened more and more as we have worked together as a team.” Shoemake said the highlight of this situation has been stepping out of her normal operations in order to serve a bigger purpose. “The Airmen often tell us that even though they are tired and physically exhausted, they are grateful to be making a difference. It feels that way for us, too.”