SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
Two Navy Medicine Training Support Center, or NMTSC, Hospital Corpsman Basic, or HCB, program students put their training into action, acting as the first responders to assist a patient at the Veterans Affairs Emergency Room Aug. 27.
Seaman Nicholas Earls, from Jackson, Tenn., and Seaman Enea Preci, from Brooklyn, N.Y., were in their final days of training at the Medical Education and Training Campus , or METC, during which time students are sent out to get real-life clinical experience at different medical units in San Antonio. They had just completed their clinical shift off-base at the Veterans Affairs hospital in San Antonio and were waiting for their ride, when they noticed a patient beginning to convulse, eventually falling down and hitting his head, which started bleeding. The students quickly jumped to action, yelling, “Man down!” grabbing the attention of one of their instructors nearby.
“I didn’t know what to think,” Preci said. “I saw him grab his chest and yell out in pain. I got closer, thinking he was possibly having a heart attack, then he collapsed. I heard a loud thud, got closer and noticed the blood pooling around the head area. My first thought was to get C-spine, then I noticed that Earls had already done that. So, I stepped out of the way when I saw HM1 [Hospital Corpsman 1st Class], then a nurse came out and I assisted with keeping the patient stabilized.”
Preci said the training he received at the METC definitely prepared him for what he experienced. One of his instructors arrived on-scene and began rapid-response efforts alongside the students.
“It all happened so fast,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Aaron, an instructor with the Hospital Corpsman Basic program at the METC. “We had the guy back into the ER in under five minutes. He was back boarded, onto a gurney, back inside with doctors treating him in that short amount of time. I washed up and came back out and I could still see the looks on their [Preci and Earls’] faces. They looked scared. I know they were wondering if they did the right thing or if they did enough.”
Aaron said the students were 20 minutes from being picked up when the incident occurred. The patient had recently been released and stepped out to smoke a cigarette. He was a civilian, about 80 years old.
“I definitely think it’s important to help people, even those you don’t know,” Preci said. “Had we not been there, he probably could’ve died.”
“I’ve gone through so much extra training during my 12 years that has improved my skills, but this training definitely gives them that solid foundation,” Aaron said. “This foundation will allow them go out and be able to treat patients and have the knowledge to execute all of that stuff during their follow-on training as well. I think that the curriculum we have here is bettering the hospital corpsman that we have going out to the fleet.”
Aaron gave Preci and Earl advice for heading out into the fleet.
“You are going to run into these types of situations in the real world,” Aaron said. “It’s important to apply the basic stuff. It is really just the simple things; chest compressions, checking their pulse, making sure that they’re breathing; all basic things being taught in this training. Once you’re comfortable, these things will become second nature in the heat of the moment. I’ve had the experience and the practice doing this. Muscle memory comes with everything you do in the military.”
Earls and Preci received letters of commendation from Lt. Cmdr. Ruben Lopez, HCB Department Chair, for their efforts.
“Your quick action and execution of the primary assessment exemplifies the training you received at the Hospital Corpsman Basic program at the Medical Education and Training Campus,” Lopez said. “The hospital corpsman mantel has a long and storied history. Your actions embody the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment. You answered the call of ‘Corpsman up!’ and cemented the rightful place the military has here in Military City, USA.”
Earls and Preci graduated from the HCB program at the METC, Aug. 30. Earls was the honor graduate for Class 160 and is eligible for the Accelerated Advancement Program (AAP), which allows “A” school students who graduate in the top percentile of their class, eligibility for automatic advancement at their first duty station. Preci held the student leadership position of Athletic Petty Officer, assisting the command fitness leaders in conducting all phases of command physical training and setting the physical fitness standard for his class.
Both students earned distinction by achieving academic excellence on the METC Dean’s List. Earls is heading to Camp Lejeune, and Preci is awaiting orders.