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April 11, 2018

Inside the Chicago hospital that trains Navy medics for the battlefield

Daily Briefing

    Before deploying to the battlefield, newly enlisted Navy medics are getting hands-on trauma care training at Stroger Hospital—a Chicago hospital that sees a significant number of traumatic firearm wounds, Shibani Mahtani repots for the Wall Street Journal.

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    Trauma care at Stroger

    While Chicago has seen a steady drop in murders since 2016, the city continues to experience an above-average number of gunshot victims, including those with "penetrating, life-threatening wounds akin to those on the battlefield," Mahtani writes.

    Many of those patients are cared for at Stroger, which treats more than 6,000 patients annually. Roughly 30% of patients are admitted to Stroger with firearms wounds, while the national average for level 1 trauma centers is just 4.2%, according to the National Trauma Data Bank.

    Faran Bokhari, who chairs the trauma and burn surgery unit at the hospital, said, "The experience here can't be replicated elsewhere, unless you have a major land invasion."

    Stroger partners with Navy on pilot program

    The Navy in 2014 launched a pilot program under which it embeds newly enlisted corpsmen at Stroger for six to eight weeks to get real-world trauma experience before deploying. The pilot is also open to those looking to sharpen their skills.

    Navy medics, also known as hospital corpsmen, typically work independently in combat zones providing immediate medical care for wounds from gunshots, explosives, or shrapnel for many front-line Marine units. The medics usually undergo 14 weeks of first aid and patient care training after boot camp. They can choose to receive additional training.

    Before the pilot program existed, according to Captain Paul Roach, a U.S. Navy surgeon at the Lovell Federal Health Care Center north of Chicago, "the first time a corpsman got any trauma experience was when they were deployed, and some would just freeze up."

    But at Stroger corpsmen become familiar with protocol and replicate it when they're working independently in combat zones, Mahtani reports. For instance, they learn basic skills such as scrubbing in before entering an OR and how to use medical equipment, such as suction machines for patients who are losing blood. After two days of training, the corpsmen "are fully immersed in the trauma unit's team," Mahtani writes. The corpsmen are called on to help on the unit's busiest shift, which goes from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m.

    An expanded partnership

    To better prepare corpsmen for the battlefield, the Navy is working to formalize and expand the pilot to become an official training rotation this spring.

    Department of Defense spokesperson Maj. Carla Gleason, said, "Corpsmen are not routinely exposed to trauma or critically injured patients during their first assignments." She added this "realistic, hands-on trauma training will allow them to hone their skills and increase their readiness" (Mahtani, Wall Street Journal, 3/14).

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