Around 170 medical students from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences recently experienced the rigors of caring for patients in a simulated combat environment at Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania. The training exercise came complete with mock explosions, operational failures, realistic missions and numerous casualties.
The future military doctors were joined by Graduate School of Nursing students, along with international military medical officers from Mexico, Israel, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
The goal of the exercise was to prepare students for their first operational assignment when they graduate from medical school.
Before they were allowed to participate in “Operation Bushmaster,” students had to pass a two-week military contingency medicine course, which was considered the classroom phase of training before the field exercise.
During this training, students received lectures and participated in exercises focused on team building. The students learned to become a cohesive unit as they prepared to deploy to a fictional country facing challenges from rebel forces. This whole phase of the training was meant to feel like pre-deployment training, similar to what they would experience later in their careers.
For “Operation Bushmaster,” the students were divided into two groups and assigned to platoons. Each platoon experienced identical scenarios of planning and executing missions while treating a multitude of casualties such as those they might experience in the real world. These scenarios included gunshot wounds, fatigue, dehydration, and shock. The exercise featured nearly 1,000 encounters with simulated patients.
Students were assigned to different roles during different parts of the exercise. Students frequently rotated positions, allowing every student to practice multiple roles, such as patient administrator, triage officer, medical logistics, or litter bearers transporting patients.
Students were graded on a number of factors, such as communication and leadership skills, as they were observed by more than 60 faculty members from USU, as well as from across the country. They were also graded on how well they performed in key positions, including platoon leader, ambulance team leader, surgeon, and combat stress control officer.
On the final day of the exercise, each platoon responded to a simulated mass casualty. As the scenario progressed, students heard loud, rapid gunfire, screaming, and explosions booming from a speaker. Smoke billowed from the woods, where casualties were coming from all angles.
The training gave students a taste of what they might see in their futures as doctors and nurses caring for service members in the battlefield. With such intense and holistic training, our men and women in uniform should be in good hands.
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Military Connection: Military Med Students Drill: By Debbie Gregory