James Mayger, a native of Australia, is an editor for Bloomberg News in Tokyo who covers the macro-economy of Japan and North Asia. As a fluent speaker of Japanese, James is volunteering for Project HOPE as the liaison between the Japanese Navy and the Project HOPE volunteers and other English speakers during Pacific Partnership 2014, the annual humanitarian mission led by the U.S. Navy to Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
Today, the US Navy and the Japanese Self Defense Force ran a psychiatry seminar for nurses and orderlies of the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Centre in Tacloban.
The hospital was badly damaged by Typhoon Yolanda, and reconstruction is still ongoing. Builders and carpenters are rebuilding wards, and the carpark is a pile of ruined equipment and bed frames.
First, a U.S. navy psychiatric nurse ran a seminar on how to calm violent or potentially violent patients, including how to de-escalate a potentially violent situation so as to ensure the safety of both the patient and staff member. The seminar included advice on how to break the hold of a patient, if attacked, and also how to recognize the signs of a potentially dangerous situation. The hospital plans to open an inpatient ward this month for psychiatric patients, and the lessons about how to approach distressed people, and how to stop staff from getting injured should be immediately applicable.
In addition, a Japanese army psychiatrist spoke about steps that health care and medical workers can take to avoid PTSD and other psychological distress from working in disaster zones. Many of the staff of the hospital were double victims of the typhoons, losing houses, family, and friends, and then dealing with the injured and dead after the disaster. The seminar applied lessons from Japan's response to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami to suggest strategies and tools for health care workers to reduce the psychological impact of a disaster and its cleanup.
Staff at the hospital previously expressed the view that they wanted to look forward, and not revisit the typhoons and its effects. However, the suggestions and tips from Japan's experience provide help not only in dealing with the effects of Yolanda, but other traumas and disasters that may occur in the future.
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