Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Combat Medical Training... in Brooklyn

From the NY Times:

Ms. Meagher, 57, manages a building with 190 patients, overseeing everything from admittance and discharge to family relations. Although she is a registered nurse, she has not practiced bedside nursing since 1979.

But over the last year, she has polished and even surpassed the nursing skills she learned long ago. As a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, she volunteered for a pilot program at Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn that prepares reserve medics for the battlefield.

The other morning, she tended to a man in intensive care who had been hit by eight bullets in his back.

"Shootings, stabbings, persons falling off a 20-story building and still being alive," Colonel Meagher ticked off as she made her rounds. "What don't we see here? The ambulances keep coming and coming."

The program, called the Academy of Advanced Combat Medicine, started at Kings County two years ago when officers from the 5,300-person Eighth Medical Brigade, based at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, decided to train their reservists in a civilian emergency room. The academy was modeled after a program for active duty medics at the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami.

The Brooklyn hospital proved an ideal partner for the program, the first of its kind in the country for reservists. The hospital's highly regarded, extremely busy emergency room admits 1,200 major trauma patients each year, among the most in the city. About half of those have penetrating wounds, often stabbings or gunshots, just the kind of wounds a medic might encounter in war, according to Dr. Patricia O'Neill, co-director of the hospital's division of trauma and critical care.

"The purpose of this program is to get them more facile with real-world trauma," Dr. O'Neill said, "so when they're deployed, they're not scared to death."

Maj. Gen. Robert J. Kasulke, the deputy surgeon general of reserve affairs who is based in Falls Church, Va., started the program along with Col. Consuelo Dungca, the chief nurse of the Eighth Medical Brigade, and staff members at Kings County. General Kasulke said the program helped close the gap between many reservists' small-town health care backgrounds and what they are likely to experience overseas.

"If you're a general surgeon in Utica, N.Y., the most trauma you may see is from a car accident," General Kasulke said. "You don't have a lot of violent activity in communities like that. What we add at Kings County is the kind of experience you might see in a war zone."


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