Veterans seek new mission at Oregon State Hospital

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(left to right) Oregon State Hospital employees Brandon Shiro (U.S. Army veteran), Adam Giblin (U.S. Army veteran) and Marshall Jennings (U.S. Air Force veteran)

For many, working at Oregon State Hospital (OSH) is not just a job; it’s a call to service. Just ask any of the 400+ veterans who work there.

“It’s a unique environment with a very challenging mission,” said Adam Giblin, OSH security operations manager and Unites States Army veteran. “We understand the mission. We understand accomplishing the mission, and here the mission is patients receiving treatment.”

The mission-driven purpose at the state’s psychiatric hospital attracts veterans seeking opportunities for teamwork that support a common goal. And because employees do not have to disclose their veteran status, 400+ is likely an undercount.

Within Giblin’s work area alone, 41 veterans are directly responsible for the safety and security of patients, employees and visitors. They represent nearly 30% of Giblin’s entire team.  

That includes Army vet Brandon Shiro, one of the newer members of the OSH security team. Shiro spent four years on active duty, deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq quickly after signing up and later joining the Michigan National Guard before moving to Oregon. He’s been working at OSH since last month.

“When I started, I didn’t know a lot about working in a psychiatric hospital setting,” Shiro said. “In my training here, I learned more about the patients and the help they need. I felt something in me click. I knew I needed to be here. 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 work 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. Also, veterans may gravitate to these industries because they expect to find other veterans working there – and a sense of mutual experience and understanding.

“I think veterans look for something in their comfort zone,” said Marshall Jennings, an OSH occupational safety specialist who retired from the U.S. Air Force after 20 years. “You’re in the mindset of serving your country, and now you’re doing it in a different way. This feels like a service.”

Jennings was an explosive specialist and said not many potential employers understood the valuable transferable skills that came with that expertise: keen situational awareness, staying calm under pressure and above all, a commitment to safety.

The security and safety teams provide support throughout the hospital. They monitor the hospital and provide patient transport and trainings to keep employees safe. They also support staff and patients through medical, behavioral and other emergencies. 

U.S. Air Force veteran Chris Rouse

U.S. Air Force veteran Chris Rouse joined the OSH security team in 2014, when the hospital was opening its Junction City campus. He was seeking opportunities that believed in a person-centered approach to safety and security, which is something he loved about his previous work with the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) and University of Oregon (UO). As a DOC corrections officer, Rouse observed the need for specialized care for general population inmates with mental illness. As a university public safety officer with UO, he learned de-escalation techniques and how to safely interact with students, staff and community members with behavioral health needs.

“It’s not like what’s portrayed on TV or in the newspaper,” Rouse said. “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.”

Many skills gained through military service are invaluable to any employer, noted Giblin. After serving seven years overseas on missions to Iraq and Afghanistan, the training and experiences proved invaluable to his current work environment.

“I’ve had to work through language and cultural barriers, and knowing how to do that translates well here,” Giblin said. “Working with a psychiatric patient who is experiencing psychosis is, in a way, 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 is not surprised by the high number of veterans employed at the hospital, many of whom 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.”