[Editor’s note: This is the third story in a series on shift workers.]
Story by Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE —While shrouded in darkness, 2nd Medical Group Airmen continue their dedication to patient care.
Many believe the 2nd MDG work the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. day job. In actuality, pharmacy technicians and emergency medical technicians also persevere through the night to support Barksdale Airmen and their families.
“The after-hours shift workers are critical in enabling the 2nd MDG to provide total quality health care for Team Barksdale,” said Chief Master Sgt. Russell Thomas, 2nd Medical Group superintendent. “Their dedication after hours ensures the pharmacy customers and residents of Barksdale are provided with expert medical knowledge.”
Even though the patients change at night, one thing stays constant: dedication to the patient.
“What our Airmen do on nights helps us focus on the patients,” said Tech. Sgt. Regie Alejandro, 2nd MDG Pharmacy NCO in-charge. “They focus on getting prescription refills ready for the next day’s pickups. This allows our day shift to focus on counseling patients on their medications and answering any questions they may have.”
While nights at Barksdale may seem quiet, the clatter of medicine filling bottles can be heard coming from the 2nd MDG Satellite Pharmacy.
“We fill anywhere from 500 to 1,500 prescriptions a night on our shift,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Burger 2nd MDG pharmacy technician. “Filling these prescriptions helps reduce the wait time for our customers during normal duty hours.”
With the amount of prescriptions filled each night, sometimes “helping hands” appear to assist the two-person technician team.
“There have been some weird and unexplained occurrences at night,” said Burger. “I was sitting in the break room on the other side of the pharmacy and heard something at our narcotics station that sounded like someone was trying to get into it and was going through the medicines inside. When I got over there, there was nothing there, just the narcotics station, exactly the way I had left it. Nothing moved or missing, just the same as it always is; locked.”
Not only can the prescriptions crashing clatter pierce the night air, when the base calls for help the screams of an ambulance siren pierces the calm night.
“We wait for the call,” said Senior Airman Christopher Scippio, 2nd MDG emergency medical technician. “When that call happens we rush to get to the site. In our job, the time it takes us to get there can be critical for the patient.”
When anyone on base calls 9-1-1 for help, the rapid response from EMT’s protect the lives of both Airmen and families of Barksdale.
“We respond to calls that help the residents of Barksdale stay safe, whether a call is made from a landline or a cell we respond if it’s on base,” said Scippio. “With medical calls ranging from choking, heart attacks, work injuries and more we are the first responders. We get them stable and then transfer them to a hospital that provides their after action care. We are the frontline response for medical emergencies on base.”
Both the pharmacy technicians and EMT’s agree working night shifts can affect the human body. Night shifts can throw off the body’s internal clock; adding stress, fatigue and other medical problems that can affect night shifters.
However, this stress can be relieved; through the creativeness of Airmen, night shift workers can stay focused and diligent in their duties.
“On nights you learn how to take care of yourself a little differently,” said Airman 1st Class Emily Klunk, 2nd MDG pharmacy technician. “You go to the gym, setup a schedule for eating and sleeping, or find a hobby to relieve stress. Working nights is about adaptation and finding what works for you and your body. Just because it’s night doesn’t mean the mission stops.”
With patient safety being the 2nd MDG’s number one priority, nights are the perfect time to train and perfect lifesaving skills.
“Working on night shift allows me to better understand what I am doing,” said Klunk. “Without the day-to-day hustle of patients coming and going, I can read and understand what some of these medicines are and how they interact with other medicines or what side effects it can cause.”
Through the sacrifice of dedicated medical professionals, Barksdale’s Airmen, families and retirees can rest easy knowing that they are kept safe with medical personnel working day and night.
“It is nice to know that we have these dedicated men and women providing after-hours medical service,” said Chief Master Sgt. Russell Thomas 2nd Medical Group superintendent. “They allow team Barksdale to sleep well at night knowing there are Airmen there to meet their needs after hours.”