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Surgery goes to the field

Medical personnel train to perform familiar functions in an unfamiliar environment

Northwest Guardian

Published: 04:11PM September 26th, 2013
Surgery goes to the field

Dean Siemon/Northwest Guardian

Capt. (Dr.) Jason Bingham, middle left, and Capt. (Dr.) Cory Mathias, middle right, perform minor surgery on a patient during a 47th CSH field exercise Sept. 18.

The doctors, nurses and surgeons of the 47th Combat Support Hospital worked out of large shelter in the parking lot of Winder Clinic on Joint Base Lewis-McChord Sept. 16 to 20, using instruments and equipment modified for the field to provide service members with medical care, including non-invasive surgical procedures. Operation Black Bear allowed them to treat real and virtual patients hands-on under field conditions to force physicians and medical staff members out of their hospital comfort zones.

In partnership with Madigan Army Medical Center, the 47th CSH performed a variety of procedures during the exercise, from removing cysts to repairing a hernia.

“Those individual skills are being honed by conducting this exercise, which in turn gives the Soldiers a great opportunity to truly see what the combat support hospital looks like,” said Maj. Brendan Watson of 47th CSH.

The staff seemed to enjoy gaining the experience of using the field medical implements and equipment, but it was nothing they couldn’t handle — like a Chevrolet driver switching to a Ford, said Maj. John Chitwood, of 47th CSH’s 250th Forward Surgical Team. He said the hands-on situations satisfied one of the primary goals of the training — to instill confidence in the staff’s skills and equipment when deployed for contingencies anywhere in the world.

“It’s one thing to hook our equipment up to a mannequin, but it’s another to hook our equipment up to a live patient,” Cheatwood said.

Patients arrived at the emergency room, where they were entered into an electronic documentation system linked with MAMC that accessed their medical records.

The 51st Signal Battalion set up the network of computers not only for medical records, but also for doctors and staff to teleconference with specialists about more serious cases.

“It allows us to use telemedicine in a parking lot,” Cheatwood said.

The mobile hospital was organized with departments similar to Madigan. The laboratory runs blood tests using an I-Stat machine that alalyzes sodium, calcium glucose and hemoglobin.

“Pretty much anything that comes out of the body, the lab can test,” said lab technician Sgt. Jarred Miller.

There is a blood bank capable of cross matching blood types for possible transfusions.

X-rays used to require using chemicals for the images with equipment that would take up almost half of the area, but with technological advancements, an X-ray can be transferred to a computer and uploaded to Madigan records.

From the patients’ perspective, the biggest advantage to Operation Black Bear was practice on the busy staff’s bedside manner.

The 47th CSH personnel practiced interpersonal skills with live patients while acquainting themselves with the field equipment and technologies.

“What they learn at their basic training is mostly trauma stuff,” said 1st Lt. Sophia Tripop, one of the ICW staff members. “Bringing them into this field hospital environment, I try to stress introducing yourself to the patient.”