You might wonder what an Army Reserve dietitian/nutrition care specialist might do when mobilized as part of an Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force (UAMTF) response effort to combat COVID-19.
Capt. Carla Schuit helped design the answer to that question for the TCF Center in Detroit when it was converted to a field hospital in order to alleviate some of the burden on the local health care system during the pandemic.
Mobilized March 26, 2020, Schuit's role when she arrived at the center was as the sole 65C, dietitian, from the Army's medical response team. She was UAMTF 801-2's primary point for collaboration with the U.S. Public Health Safety team (USPHS), the Michigan National Guard, the Michigan Task Force, and the active-duty component Army if it concerned nutrition and food service care for the TCF convention center hospital. Tasked with establishing nutrition care services and executing coordinated efforts with dietitians from the USPHS and the team from the Michigan MI-TFI, Schuit learned that "with drive and ingenuity you can solve any problem."
"My team was responsible for entering the "hot zone", the area where the patients were, and distributing any dietary supplies," said Schuit. "My team… and myself were responsible for clinical assessment, reassessment, and care of COVID-19 patients."
Schuit lead a team of 68Ms, nutrition care specialists. They were a vital part of the mission and the comprehensive care given to patients at TCF Center. Schuit expressed her deep admiration when seeing her team set up operations in an environment that had not previously existed.
"We also collaborated tray delivery and food operations for patients and assisted with staff meals," said Schuit. "My most memorable experience was seeing my lead, Staff Sgt. De La Fuente, motivate his fellow soldiers. All of my team, including Spc. Laboy and Spc. Lingenfelter, rose to the occasion and did what was needed to serve the patients at the center. If they saw a problem, they solved it."
"Rarely is nutrition services at the forefront of the fight," said Schuit. "I believe their quick reaction to meet the requests and needs of the patients made a huge impact on the success of our mission."
Schuit also served as the team's clinical asset, responsible for patient assessment, calculation of nutritional needs, and determination of diet type for patients with special needs. She collaborated with her counterparts and clinical staff to establish standard operating procedures for clinical assessment, food inventory, and meal delivery.
The team ensured the nutritional side of patient care by providing medically therapeutic diets, including generally healthy, heart healthy, diabetic, low sodium, and altered consistency mechanical soft and pureed diets to meet patients' needs.
Her team established a stock of needed supplements, including oral and enteral formulas for patients having poor appetites or additional nutrition needs. They managed the process for handling trays for each meal, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
Schuit has a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Michigan State University and a master's in Public Health from Benedictine University.
Joining the U.S. Army Reserve in October 2018 and assigned to the 801st Combat Support Hospital out of Fort Sheridan, Ill., Schuit had only served for two years when she was 'coined' for her outstanding professionalism and execution of her duties by retired Lt. Gen. Charles D. Luckey, former chief of the U.S. Army Reserve.
"I don't think any of us do this job looking for recognition or notoriety; we do it to make a difference in other's lives as well as our own. We push forward, hoping that what we do will make even the smallest impact on the big picture," said Schuit. "It was a phenomenal experience to have someone of his caliber recognize our efforts - It was an honor."
When asked about her experience, Schuit said, "This experience taught me lessons in leadership, emergency management, and clinical and operational skills. You are only as good as the team you work with. At the TCF Center, I was incredibly fortunate, not only for just my 68Ms [nutrition care specialists] but for the members of the other services that came together for the people of Detroit."
On the front line for nutrition service during COVID-19 missions, dietitians and nutrition care specialists stood ready and delivered.