Royal Australian Navy nursing officer Lieutenant Commander Steven Grosser has paused the posting of a lifetime to return to Australia and help with Operation COVID-19 Assist.

At the start of the year, Lieutenant Commander Grosser was posted to the Naval Medical Centre San Diego with the US Navy to understand how they conduct their simulation training.

“I was posted to San Diego with no thoughts of returning to Australia for two years,” Lieutenant Commander Grosser said.

“When the COVID-19 threat hit, I left within 24 hours to come back to Australia to help.”

Lieutenant Commander Grosser is the ADF officer in charge of the military element supporting the Victorian state government at one of the community testing centres in Melbourne.

“At our testing site the ADF are in partnership with Royal Melbourne Hospital,” he said.

“I oversee the clinical side including swabbing. Royal Melbourne oversees the pathology and labelling. Together we integrate and assist each other.”

Lieutenant Commander Grosser’s extensive experience as a perioperative nurse in Australia and the UK before joining the ADF gives him unique insight into how patient emotions impact tasks.

“On paper the tasks we’re doing here seem simple – check ID, swab test a patient and put the test in a jar,” he said.

“But when you layer the interaction with people who are sad or scared, the tasks become more complex.

“Clinical experience helps us work with the patient to get the job done.”

Deployments like the current one to Melbourne were why he joined the Defence Force.

“I joined for a greater challenge, to be pushed and for the unique situations you find yourself in on a year-to-year basis,” Lieutenant Commander Grosser said.

“Doing unique tasks that make a difference in the world.

“To be part of a government response to COVID-19 is excellent.”