Civilian EMS workers get a dose of Army medic life
October 13, 2011
FORT DRUM, N.Y., Oct. 13, 2011 -- Local New York civilian emergency medical services workers witnessed a special event Sept. 29, as they watched Fort Drum medics respond to and work through a mass casualty scenario at the Medical Simulation Training Center on post.
The daylong event began with briefings in the morning, followed by the mass casualty scenario, and care under fire and Jaws of Life demonstrations in the afternoon.
During the morning session, Capt. Martin Stewart, officer in charge of the Medical Simulation Training Center, or MSTC, briefed the civilians on the Army's systematic approach to medical training -- otherwise known as battlefield emergency care. Other medical professionals also briefed attendees on military medical issues from behavioral implications, to improvised explosive device wounds, to trauma care.
Afterward, guests watched Army medics respond to a mass casualty simulation, which was designed to give civilian EMS workers a better idea of their military counterparts' training.
The scenario showcased how Soldiers train and work under pressure, explained Spc. Erik Morales, a medic with 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team. During the scenario, he assessed medics who were treating patients.
The scene began with a mortar round "blowing up" in a small building.
"If something were to come (into a building) and blow up, we're going to have an obvious (mass casualty) in different areas," Morales said, adding the scenario also showcased casualties with different wounds.
While treating "wounded" Soldiers, medics worked in a dark and smoky environment, surrounded by shouts and gunfire.
The scenarios are designed to be as realistic to a battle scene as possible, to prepare new medics who are about to deploy and to help other medics brush up on their skills, explained Pfc. James Sutton, a medic with 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
Sutton was one of the medics who put his skills to the test during the exercise.
During the scenario and a skills lab, guests were exposed to how Soldiers treat a casualty, compared to how a civilian EMS worker would treat a patient, noted Spc. Jacob Foster, a medic with 1-87 Infantry.
Morales said that although every incident is different, this particular scenario was designed to teach the civilians what to expect during a mass casualty situation.
"The way (civilians) do their training, they won't actually treat a (bleeding wound) at first. They'll check (the) airway and breathing, whereas with us, we're more trauma-related," Foster said. "If (civilian EMS workers) were to come into a scenario that we're used to, hopefully they can take away that they should stop the bleeding before (the patient) bleeds out."
Army medics noted that although they treat patients in environments different from the civilian EMS workers, they all share a common practice of medical care that is not a concrete methodology.
"The thing with all medical care is while we have that systematic approach, it's not written in law," Foster explained. "That's how it is with any medical personnel throughout the entire world. Every patient is different, (and) every patient is treated differently."
He also stressed that medics and EMS workers need to have an open mind when entering a situation.
Morales said the scenario training they participate in helps Army medics to open up their minds.
"This type of training teaches (Soldiers) to always think of what could happen and think of ways to manage it," he said. "It teaches (Soldiers) how to be better medics."
Foster said he believes EMS civilians will take information they learned while watching the Soldiers back to their ambulance squads.
"This training helps us understand how our counterparts in the military are trained. It also brings a lot of research to the table that can be very useful in the civilian setting," explained Ann Smith, director of the North Country EMS Program Agency, which covers Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.
Smith said the day's activities reaffirmed methods that have changed over the years, such as fluid resuscitation of the trauma patient.
For instance, instead of pumping a large amount of fluid into a patient, they now limit the amount of fluid.
According to the Army medics, tourniquets are considered the No. 1 live-saving device on the battlefield, while civilian EMS training indicates that tourniquets are used as a last resort.
"The military has done a lot of great research. It's very interesting that New York state is moving forward with the use of tourniquets," Smith said. "That comes from research that has been done (because) there won't be as much subsequent tissue damage as there once (was) thought to be."
Although the civilian EMS workers were scheduled to participate in the day's events just as observers, some got a treat when they were given an opportunity to take part in the care under fire demonstration.
"What a better way to conclude a cooperative training day than to have a civilian EMS team and an Army medic team on the obstacle course doing the same thing," Stewart noted.
The care under fire exercised consisted of a half-mile-long obstacle course equipped with a wall that forced participants to lift a stretcher above their heads and a sand pit that helped them practice low crawling. There were also large amounts of smoke and gun fire noise, designed to test participants' verbalization and coordination skills.
Morales described the care under fire exercise as an actual overview of how things might be during a deployment.
Although each Army medic carried 50 more pounds of gear through the course than the civilians, Stewart believed they gained a better appreciation of what the Soldiers do.
"I think (the training) is a wonderful thing that Fort Drum does," Smith explained. "I think it makes people understand what the military (members) are dealing with and, medically, how they need to be treated."
Stewart said they plan to host the same event next year, and he has aspirations of offering a larger training opportunity to the community.
"Our goal was to further solidify our relationship with the civilian EMS community, and the more that we get to interact with each other, the better it is for them and for us," Stewart said. "From the perspective of a cooperative training arrangement, it was a complete success."