Combat medics sharpen skills during refresher course

A student receives fluid from an intravenous line during an IV class as part of the medic refresher course hosted by the Virginia Army National Guard’s Medical Command Feb. 5, 2015, at Fort Pickett, Va. MEDCOM provides Soldiers the opportunity to refresh essential life saving skills in both an institutional and simulated environment. (Photo by Capt. Andrew J. Czaplicki, Virginia Guard Public Affairs

A student receives fluid from an intravenous line during an IV class as part of the medic refresher course hosted by the Virginia Army National Guard’s Medical Command Feb. 5, 2015, at Fort Pickett, Va. MEDCOM provides Soldiers the opportunity to refresh essential life saving skills in both an institutional and simulated environment. (Photo by Capt. Andrew J. Czaplicki, Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. – Thirteen Virginia Army National Guard combat medics completed a four-day medical skills refresher course hosted by the Virginia Army National Guard Medical Command Feb. 6, 2015, at Fort Pickett, Va.

The four-day course, proctored by members of MEDCOM, provided combat medics with mandatory continuing medical education as well as new or refreshed medical skills, techniques and procedures used both during and off duty.

Each combat medic is required to have 72 hours of continuing medical education every two years and is required to maintain any state-specific civilian certifications, such as an emergency medical technician license or basic lifesaver certification. If a Soldier fails to maintain these certifications, they are no longer qualified as combat medic.

This course provides 48 continuing medical education hours towards the 72- hour requirement.

“During normal drill our medics don’t get time to train on their skills,” said Capt. Nicole Murphy, officer-in charge of the course. “They are usually on the range or they have other unit training to do, and never really get a chance to practice or to get hands-on time with their equipment.”

“When they are at their unit and there’s only two medics, it’s really hard to teach each other,” Murphy said. “Here, they can learn from the infantry medics, from the engineer medics, from the battalion medics—there’s so much crosstalk and collaboration between medics that they learn almost half as much from just in class discussions with other medics than they do from the course material.”

The course focused on a two-fold approach, explained Murphy; the first, an instructional classroom portion that used slide presentations, discussions, videos and photographs, and a second a practical portion where the skills that they just were taught are applied during a hands-on scenario.

In the classroom portion of the course, medics learn and discuss a variety of medical procedures, such as using a tourniquet, opening and maintaining airways, treating chest wounds, and placing an intravenous fluid line.

During the course, experiences prompted discussions.

“Our instructors are very smart in that they ask ‘Who has experience with this?’ and ‘When have you experienced this in your unit?’ and it really stimulates conversation about these tough skills to learn,” Murphy said.

“A lot of medics are nurses or run on ambulances as part of their civilian careers and they share those experiences with their peers and how they see their military skills applying to those jobs and how the things they learn on the ambulance show up at drill,” Murphy said.

“A few of our Soldiers don’t get to do this kind of training with their civilian employers,” explained Sgt. Lee Samuel, Jr., a combat medic assigned to MEDCOM, who served as an instructor for the course. “Some of our medics do other jobs that don’t necessarily keep them medically proficient. This training provides them with the basic skills that medics might be called on to perform, like giving intravenous fluids, tourniquets, bandaging—skills that they could lose if they didn’t train on them regularly.”

Part of the hands-on training medics experienced was equipment and technique familiarization.

“We’re training medics on new equipment,” said Staff Sgt. Samuel A. Anthony, a platoon sergeant with MEDCOM, who served as noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the course. “We’re starting to use new needles for our intravenous fluid lines that are easier, safer and more sterile for us. This course provides the perfect opportunity to show how these are used and for medics to get hands-on training on how to use them.”

“Every skill that we teach has been used at some point at either home station, during drill or annual training, and while deployed,” Samuel said.

Medical Command oversees and audits training certifications and requirements for all medical professionals in the state.

In addition to the training, during the course medics were required to validate their skills by satisfactory completing tables one through eight of training circular 8-800, medical education and demonstration of individual competence. Soldiers treat fellow Soldiers acting as casualties while wearing their combat equipment and experiencing different situations.

“I think our medics are just as good or better than active duty medics because our medics are problem solvers; they know how to work with not-the-best equipment and still get the same result,” Murphy said.

View and download high resolution photos here.

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