Nurse Susan Heap wb.jpg

Susan Heap, a nurse case manager with the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (LI)’s embedded behavioral health, attempts to calm down a role-playing patient during a combative patient mock drill Aug. 8 at the Wilcox Behavioral Health clinic on Fort Drum. The training event was designed to show nurses with the behavioral health clinic proper techniques and procedures for calming a patient down while providing a way ahead for the patient in a non-confrontational manner. (Photo by Warren W. Wright Jr., Fort Drum MEDDAC Public Affairs)


Fort Drum behavioral health staff members learn to de-escalate combative situation during drill


Warren Wright

Fort Drum MEDDAC


FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Aug. 19, 2019) – Fort Drum health care professionals received hands-on training on methods to de-escalate a delicate situation when a patient becomes unruly or combative, during a mock drill Aug. 8 at the Wilcox Behavioral Health Clinic on post.

The training, organized by the U.S. Army Medical Department Activity (MEDDAC) Fort Drum’s Health Education and Training Department, was designed to show behavioral health nurses proper techniques and procedures for calming down a patient while providing a way ahead for the patient in a non-confrontational manner.

“I think the training is helpful, especially for new nurses,” said Dr. Morgan Krump, chief of MEDDAC’s Health Education and Training Department. “They worked very hard to come up with a situation that would be an everyday kind of patient and what they would do for a treatment plan for that patient.”

The training event was conducted as part of a new health education endeavor by the Health Education and Training team. In the past, multiple departments would come together on a specific training day and work on generic skills that may not always be relevant to specific areas or departments.

Now, the Health Education and Training team takes the time to travel to individual clinics and departments to conduct hands-on training relevant to the areas they’re visiting.

“Every department has unique criteria, and they have different types of patients,” Krump said. “A nurse is a nurse; however, they’re all doing different skills. In this case, a lot of their skills are critical thinking and therapeutic communication.”

This particular training event began with Susan Heap, a nurse case manager with the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (LI)’s embedded behavioral health, starting a consultation with a role-playing patient. The role-player, portraying a Soldier, had become aggravated at the number of appointments she had to attend before knowing if and when she could get back to work.

Shortly after the consultation began, the role-player started raising her voice and becoming more and more combative with Heap. Eventually, Heap was able to calm her patient down by drawing on her experience and training in order to get to a point where the patient became responsive to the treatment plan.

“I think the training went very well,” Heap said. “Every day we see a multitude of different personalities, different ranks of Soldiers, different (jobs), so we have to be able to talk to them, make them feel that everything’s going to be OK, that we have a handle on what’s going on and that we’re going to be able to help guide them through the whole scenario of what they’re up against.”

During the training, other behavioral health nurses observed the confrontation and took notes to help them better understand how to de-escalate a potentially hostile situation.

“To see a seasoned nurse who’s been doing this for a long time and how they handle a situation gives other nurses ideas on how to change their practice and how to use other best practices so they can improve their everyday patient care,” Krump said.

Heap emphasized the reason that some patients may get hostile toward their care is because of the negative stigma that’s often associated with seeking behavioral health treatment. However, she wants all Soldiers to know that seeking care for their emotional health is not at all a career killer.

“In fact, the Army has realized that people need help; people need somewhere to go to vent some of this stuff out,” Heap said. “They just need somebody that’s going to be there to listen and help them get the services they need.”

Heap said commanders have been “spectacularly supportive” on the topic of behavioral health.

“All the ones I have worked with have been a tremendous help, are very involved and are genuinely concerned with their Soldiers’ well-being,” she added.

Heap highly recommends that anyone – Soldier or Family Member – who is experiencing behavioral and emotional difficulties should seek help immediately, and that doesn’t necessarily mean going straight to the Behavioral Health Clinic if they’re not comfortable at first.

“Come in as soon as you feel the need to talk to somebody, and know there are other resources if you don’t want to come to behavioral health,” she said. “You have the chaplain, the chaplain’s assistant, [Military and Family Life Counseling Program, or] MFLC providers – there are a lot of different routes you can take without having to come directly to behavioral health.”

Those wishing to seek behavioral health services should contact the Fort Drum MEDDAC appointment line at (315) 772-2778, make an appointment online at or contact their respective embedded behavioral health specialist.