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USAISR pilot program provides training on burn care to deploying servicemembers

By David DeKunder | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Oct. 18, 2018


A pilot program at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston is providing hands-on clinical training to deploying service members on the care and treatment of one of the most complex patient populations in the military – those with burn and traumatic injuries.

The Clinical Pre-Deployment Training Pilot Program gives groups and teams of medical servicemembers who are preparing for deployment the opportunity to train at the USAISR Burn Center. The burn center is the sole facility within the Department of Defense that cares and treats burn patients who are active-duty and injured in combat, military dependents and non-military civilian emergencies. Staffed by more than 200 medical professionals, the center provides first rate surgical services, nursing care, rehabilitation, restoration of function and community reintegration for burn patients.

Maj. Allison Ferro, USAISR Burn Center chief of clinical education, said the trainees in the program get hands-on experience caring for burn patients in the USAISR Burn Center, which are similar to the types of patients they may encounter in a deployed setting.

“The patient population that we have here in the burn center is unique and unlike any other unit that takes care of patients in the Department of Defense,” Ferro said. “Our patients have the highest acuity (complexity of injuries of any patients in the Department of Defense), which therefore most closely mimics combat casualties. It makes for a great training platform for folks who are about to deploy and take care of very complex patients.”

The training program is open to medical personnel and groups from all military services who are getting ready to be deployed. Clinical training rotations in the program can last from one to four weeks depending on specific skill needs and requests of servicemembers and groups who are being trained.

Ferro said trainees learn under the guidance of burn center staff members, who are experienced subject matter experts in the area of burn and traumatic injuries.

“By gaining hands on clinical experience on the sickest patients in the Department of Defense, they’re then able to develop those clinical skills to care for combat casualties,” she said. “Clinical training on the treatment and care of burn and trauma injuries is needed because many military medical personnel have never had a chance to care for burn and trauma patients, which make up four to seven percent of all combat casualties.

“Burn care is very specific, therefore best taught by subject matter experts rather than just from a book.”

Patricia Colston, USAISR Burn Center nurse educator, said the training program allows servicemembers to learn in a controlled environment, instead of having to learn in a hectic deployed setting.

“It gives them good exposure to see what they might experience in real life so that way they are not so overwhelmed in the field,” Colston said.

During the training, Colston said medical personnel in the program learn how to work together as team in treating injuries since some of the trainees are working together for the first time.

“It’s a good way to learn the roles of each individual on the medical team,” Colston said.

Although clinical rotations have been conducted in the burn center for several years, the Clinical Pre-Deployment Training Pilot Program started in April. Ferro said the pilot program is the first to standardize curriculum and training platforms for deploying servicemembers who are learning about burn and traumatic injuries.

Since April, Ferro said 85 servicemembers and six medical teams, from units as far away as Japan to those as close as JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, have undergone training in the program. She said the USAISR Burn Center surveys servicemembers who have been trained in the program to gauge its effectiveness. The data from those surveys will be used to determine if the training program is helping servicemembers to improve their skills and knowledge of treating injuries.

Ferro said she hopes the concept of the Clinical Pre-Deployment Training Pilot Program can be expanded to civilian medical facilities across the U.S. that also specialize in burn and trauma injuries and who would be willing to train deploying servicemembers.

“Because no other clinical training platform exists of its type (for burn and trauma injuries), we’re (USAISR Burn Center) the only one in the military for training servicemembers on how to treat burn patients,” Ferro said. “We are looking to expand it to our civilian partners at any facility with a similar patient population. Hopefully, we’ll be able to show that our training platform increases individual readiness - that’s the goal.”

Groups and teams of medical servicemembers who want to participate in the Clinical Pre-Deployment Training Pilot Program can find out more about the program at usarmy.jbsa.medcom-aisr.list.education@mail.mil.