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DHA provides KMC Labor and Delivery Clinic manning assist

U.S. Air Force Col. Michelle Aastrom, 81st Inpatient Operation Squadron commander, discusses the intensive care unit capabilities with U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Ronald Place, Defense Health Agency, director for the National Capital Region Medical Directorate and Transition Intermediate Management Organization, during an immersion tour inside the Keesler Medical Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Feb. 13, 2019. The purpose of Place's two-day visit was to become more familiar with the medical center's mission capabilities and to receive the status of the 81st Medical Group's transition under DHA. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

U.S. Air Force Col. Michelle Aastrom, 81st Inpatient Operation Squadron commander, discusses the intensive care unit capabilities with U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Ronald Place, Defense Health Agency, director for the National Capital Region Medical Directorate and Transition Intermediate Management Organization, during an immersion tour inside the Keesler Medical Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Feb. 13, 2019. The purpose of Place's two-day visit was to become more familiar with the medical center's mission capabilities and to receive the status of the 81st Medical Group's transition under DHA. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

Every month Keesler Medical Center’s Labor and Delivery Clinic averages approximately 35 births. However, last year the clinic experienced a manning shortage that began to impact their ability to take care of families.

“The solution that was suggested was to refer the patient’s downtown to lessen our load here,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Alexis Johnson, 81st Inpatient Operation Squadron family birthing center flight commander. “The women’s health clinic was sending about 10 referrals downtown so that was knocking our numbers down here about 10 a month.”

With family readiness being one of the clinic’s main priorities, sending military members and their spouses to a different facility was not ideal. KMC quickly reached out to the Defense Health Agency and requested more manning.

According to Johnson, the process was quick. Within one month DHA sent over four manning assists from different branches of the military, which allowed them to achieve their family readiness goals.

“We keep the families together, we keep them happy,” said Johnson. “When you deploy, yes it’s the military member who deploys but the entire family is affected. The family has to be prepared and ready.”

Not only did this help the clinic provide the best care they can to as many Keesler families as possible, it gave the military members a chance to learn from one another.

“All of them have brought things from their base into our facility here,” said Johnson. “We’ve learned some things from them and they’ve learned some things from us as well, but as far as working together it has been a very good partnership.”

The labor and delivery clinic here is all inclusive, which means they do labor and delivery, recovery and postpartum care. This was something new for U.S. Army Capt. Andrea Swansiger, 81st IPTS Family Birthing Center registered nurse, who came to Keesler from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“I’m learning a lot,” said Swansiger. “It’s a different hospital than I’m used to; it’s smaller and I don’t normally do post-partum care so I’m learning how to do that. We [Fort Bragg] do labor, delivery, recovery, and then they are transferred over to the postpartum floor where they finish their stay there.”

Swansiger said she is learning how to help with breast feeding, passing medications, checking vital signs and teaching new families what to do to prepare for their discharge. The manning assist provided her an experience she wouldn’t have otherwise.

Swansiger said she was selected to come to Keesler due to her being the most senior military leader at her facility.

“I think the cool thing about DHA is I’m here at an Air Force facility,” said Swansiger. “You wouldn’t normally have an Army RN at an Air Force hospital and we also have someone from the Navy helping out. That is the cool thing about DHA, we can see how other branches operate.”

WithDHA sending manning assists to the clinic Johnson recognized in more ways than one the benefits the transition has provided the KMC and especially the labor and delivery clinic.

“Our transition to DHA has been a good thing,” said Johnson. “We still have more changes to come but I see DHA and this partnership, especially here at Keesler as nothing but positive.”