BAGHDAD, Iraq –
Working in a Role III hospital center overseas, the bulk of the work consists of routine medical care for Soldiers, Coalition Forces, and contractors, addressing a multitude of symptoms, including headaches, muscle pain, cold-like symptoms, upset stomachs, etc. On a busy day, the EMT can see 11 or more patients, and on other days the hospital might not see any patients at all. However, when a complex patient comes through the door, just a single trauma, all sections of the hospital are activated simultaneously and must be on their A-game to provide lifesaving medical care.
To do this, training is made a high priority, offering multiple training opportunities for every level in the hospital. Currently, the Role III conducts weekly training events, what has commonly become known as 'chalk talks,' rotating skills stations, live case study reviews, as well as re-certification courses such as BLS (Basic Life Support) ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support).
"Education is always important in the medical profession," said Maj. Nicola Scott, who regularly assists a number of the training events hosted by JTF Med 374. "Processes are always changing due to evidence-based research, and training is a good refresher."
The Role III Hospital Center has extended training outside of the Task Force, conducting training with other trace-down units at other locations, as well as other Coalition partners including Spanish, Italian, Polish and Iraqi components, to name a few. Additionally, each of the components regularly participates in large-scale patient movement exercises where mock patients are pushed through the medical evacuation process, testing the different assigned unit's ability to move, treat and evacuate casualties in theater.
"We try to conduct frequent MASCAL (mass casualty) and trauma drills to ensure soldiers are working as teams and developing their medical skills," said Master Sgt. Richard Hargraves, the hospital's Chief Ward Master, a position that oversees many of the medical operations and training events for the hospital.
"These different opportunities also help us identify areas we need improvement in. That way, we are not having to figure things out when we have a live patient, ensuring Soldiers receive the best possible care. In the Army Reserve, we have a lot of Soldiers that have different jobs on the civilian side than their Army job—these consistent training events really help them practice their medical skills," said Hargraves.
Some of the skills focused on during training include methods of equipment used for intubation, intravenous access techniques, fluid and drug administration using pumps, lab interpretation, chest tube insertion, suturing, suction equipment and operation, acquiring and reading EKGs, and ultrasound uses and techniques, to name a few.
"Medical skills are definitely something that is perishable, and if we are not practicing them enough, those skills deteriorate over time," said Hargraves. "The other advantage of working in an Army hospital like ours is all the backgrounds we have on our staff. Our doctors and staff work in different medical facilities and areas all over the country, both civilian and on the Army side, and all of them are trained professionals teaching with different experiences and SOPs they use from their facilities,” he said.
It's not often you get a respiratory or drug class taught by an anesthesiologist, or an ultrasound/imaging class taught by a radiologist, said Hargraves. "I also think these pieces of training help improve each of the Soldier's level of confidence as well as the patient's level of confidence in the care they receive. It also incorporates good leadership skills and team building, which help build the team, improve cohesion, and get Soldiers out of their shells and comfort zones," said Hargraves.
Outside the Role III Hospital, training and sharing of medical knowledge has been extended to other Army units and Coalition Forces, hosting multiple training events to include walking blood banks, basic combat lifesaver courses, as well specific medical topics on prolonged field care to Role I medical care.
"I got to give a class to the 10th Mountain Infantry Division, one of our Role I sites, discussing medical documentation, tactical casualty field cards, flow sheets, and telemedicine," said Sgt. Peter Lebron, 68W. "At first, I thought we were just teaching the Role I medics, but then the whole room filled up with doctors, physician assistants, nurses, special forces, from many different countries. They had a lot of questions about our documentation process and the capabilities of the Role III, and options for care. For example, they did not know we had a dentist or ophthalmologist or the capability to consult different specialties while in the theater. It was a good feeling knowing that the information I shared could help other medical units and connect resources for future Soldier care."