Medics from the Army National Guard are among those taking part in a pilot program designed to revamp the training that flight medics throughout the Army will receive.
Taught at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the program will provide flight medics with additional paramedic and critical care training and certifications.
“A paramedic provides a higher level of care,” said Army Master Sgt. Kym Ricketts, chief medical non-commissioned officer with the Army National Guard. “It’s advanced, pre-hospital medical care.”
Currently, to be a flight medic, a soldier must be a qualified combat medic and be in a flight medic slot, but since flight medics operate under different conditions those requirements are changing to reflect that.
“The medics need additional training as flight medics as they do a higher standard of care and in a different environment than a line medic on the ground,” Ricketts said.
The program is designed to emphasize that fact and focus on training soldiers on those additional skills needed as a flight medic.
As part of the pilot program and proposed changes, soldiers go through three phases of training specific to flight medic duty.
“The first one is the flight medic phase,” Ricketts said, adding that it can be waivered in lieu of on-the-job training. “Phase two is the nationally registered paramedic [course], which is the longest phase, and phase three is the critical care transport piece.”
The push for making changes to flight medic requirements came from a number of elements, including a study done on a California Army National Guard medical evacuation unit that deployed to Afghanistan with full-fledged paramedics in flight medic positions.
“[The study found that with] having flight paramedics in the back of an aircraft there was a 66 percent higher survivability rate than with a straight [combat medic] that wasn’t paramedic trained,” Ricketts said.
Additionally, proposed changes to the flight medic requirements also mean that graduates of the program walk away with national certifications as paramedics. That provides additional benefits including a greater flexibility with integrating with local, state and other agencies in a disaster situation, she said.
“A citizen-soldier can do their wartime mission as well as their peacetime mission of taking care of their community,” Ricketts said, adding that those certifications are the same received by civilian paramedics.
But the important part, she said, is simply providing the best care possible.
“The benefit is the best battlefield medicine and care that a soldier can get,” she said.
“With the forward surgical teams that are out there casualties are actually having surgical intervention on the ground at the point of injury,” Ricketts said. “Combined with these medics that are able to have this training … the [casualty] will be getting the best standard of care.”
The pilot program wraps up later in the year and will then go through a review process.
“It’s still a pilot program and once the pilot program is through we’ll do an analysis to see what works best,” she said.
Ricketts remains positive about the results of the program.
“These medics are going to affect so many people,” she said. “Not just American forces, but coalition forces as well, and that’s amazing.”
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