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I Am Navy Medicine - Stopping the spread of COVID-19: Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Donald Cooney

Image of soldier wearing a mask in the hospital's chapel Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Donald Cooney is assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Bremerton and works at the Branch Health Clinic in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. NMRTC Bremerton is committed to help stop the spread of COVID-19, reduce the risk for high-risk populations and protect patients, visitors and staff. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ryan Riley/Released)

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Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Donald Cooney, assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Bremerton and working at Branch Health Clinic (BHC) Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS), experienced a need to serve before enlisting in 2017.

“I had felt a strong sense to serve my country as a chaplain since I was very young but decided to attend college first,” he said. “After the completion of college I worked in a hospital setting for several years but couldn’t shake this feeling of needing to serve. I joined the Navy to make my small contribution to my country and work towards the goal of one day becoming a chaplain.” 

In Navy Medicine for two years, Cooney knew he wanted to be in a profession to help others.

“I would not have been surprised if you told me I would be a corpsman when I was younger,” he said. “I have always enjoyed helping others and doing my part to make a difference and that is what I get to do now.”

After graduating boot camp and completing corpsman “A” school, he headed (back) to the Pacific Northwest for his first duty station at NMRTC Bremerton.

“My primary roles include assisting the clinic with seeing both active duty and civilian patients, laboratory venipuncture, occupational health documentation, operate the audiometry testing booth, coach patients in spirometry testing, perform optometry screenings, and order and dispense safety glasses,” said Cooney.

Serving in the Navy Medicine community during a unique time in our country, Cooney explains what he and his team does to help combat COVID-19.

“We as corpsmen at the clinic are ensuring those that are entering our facility are healthy and not exhibiting signs of COVID-19,” said Cooney. “In support of that I am standing duty at the front door screening patients prior to entry, disinfecting all equipment touched between each patient, wiping down chairs twice a day, and any high touch areas with disinfectant. Additionally I am manning Optometry department so our patients can get their qualification screenings completed, and allow shipyard workers to order, and dispense their safety glasses to ensure they are safe in the shipyard.”

When asked to sum up his experience in the Navy in one sentence Cooney said, “The Navy has provided me a chance to make a difference for others while empowering me to achieve my personal goals.”

One of those goals, as he said before, is becoming a Navy chaplain.

“It’s really up to God where I go,” said Cooney. “I hope to still be in the Navy either serving as a hospital corpsman or a chaplain. I’m attending seminary at Seattle Pacific University and am looking forward to the opportunity to shift my care from a more physical one to a spiritual one.”

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