First year residents in emergency departments around the United States have a grueling schedule. They have already suffered through four years of medical school, internship, and their residency is the time when they have to become experts in their field of medicine. Recently, first year residents at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Fla., witnessed first-hand a different type of medicine from the students in the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School's Special Operations Combat Medic Course, which is designed to prepare special operations medics to operate on the front lines.
Students enrolled in SOCM complete clinical rotations in civilian, level-one trauma centers in Florida and Michigan. While at the facilities, students have the opportunity to put their training to the test in real-world emergency situations. Such was the case at Bayfront when a patient involved in a high speed motorcycle accident was brought in for treatment. The patient was suffering multisystem trauma, which included a compound leg fracture, hypovolemic shock (a severe emergency condition in which blood and fluid loss make the heart unable to pump enough blood into the body) and a head injury. A Specialist enrolled in SOCM was on rotation and was allowed to take the lead in treating the patient.
"The emergency room was extremely busy that day. We had several trauma patients coming in one right after the other," he said. "I was able to work with the patients, either as a team lead or another participant on the trauma team."
He explained that being the lead for a trauma is an intense experience, because while a SOCM student may be allowed to take the lead, ultimately the trauma surgeon and ER doctor make the treatment decisions for the care of any patient.
Under the watchful eye of the emergency room physicians, the Specialist taught the first year residents the special operations trauma sequence while leading the treatment. The emergency room attending physician and other SOCM students discussed the special operations forces sequence and the differences in the civilian sector.
"As a team, we were able to successfully stabilize the patient and get him the care that he needed, which included major surgery for his injuries," said the Specialist.
Coming from the classroom and field setting at the Joint Special Operations Medical Training Center, students are anxious to see how their training stacks up against other medical professionals.
"When I was the team lead for the first time, I was anxious because I had never been in that situation before," said the Specialist. "But the assessment skills that I learned at the JSOMTC took over and I realized that my education will allow me to perform well in stressful situations."
What students learn during their rotations will help prepare them to face the trials on the battlefield, confident in the skills they possess.
"The benefits of our rotations will most likely be seen far from U.S. soil," said the student. "As a SOCM student, we are given the opportunity to not only participate, but lead trauma scenarios in a real situation where our decision will be directly critiqued by a trauma surgeon who is vigilantly watching our every move. We also learn protocols for trauma and medical situations that differ from ours that are used just as effectively."
This is key, as special operation forces often work in remote areas far from medical care. In these instances, SOCM-trained medics are skilled in trauma management. The Special Operations Combat Medic Course is a 36-week course designed to teach SOF medics the knowledge and skills required to manage combat casualties from the point of injury to evacuation. Students graduating from the course are certified as National Registry Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT). They are also qualified in Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Pediatric Education for Pre-hospital Professionals.
"The education at the JSOMTC has been excellent and the hospital rotation has allowed me to see just how well I have been taught," said the Specialist. "I will have a direct influence on the battlefield because I know I can trust the training I have received and used on actual patients and have seen the successful outcomes."
"The success of our students in the clinical rotations is another testament to the level of professionalism and the excellent reputation our combat medics have earned worldwide," said Maj. Randall Wenner, the Deputy Commander of the Special Warfare Medical Group, which is responsible for all medical training at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.