January 30, 2004

Fort Campbell Army hospital personnel team up with Vanderbilt

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Soldiers from Fort Campbell's 86th Combat Support Hospital division treat a patient during a mock exercise while members of the Vanderbilt Trauma Divison observe. Army hospital personnel will be honing their skills at Vanderbilt in a move designed to sustain the medical proficiency of support hospital soldiers. Photo by Anne Rayner

Fort Campbell Army hospital personnel team up with Vanderbilt

Members of the Fort Campbell 86th Combat Support Hospital will be honing their skills at Vanderbilt Medical Center in a move designed to sustain the medical proficiency of support hospital soldiers.

As part of this innovative partnership, Dr. Jeffrey Guy, director of the Vanderbilt Burn Center, along with other members from the Vanderbilt Trauma Unit, traveled to Fort Campbell Monday to observe a field exercise involving the 86th Combat Support Hospital.

The exercise was conducted in an actual field hospital set up at Fort Campbell’s Blanchfield Army Community Hospital. (BACH). The field hospital, a 296-bed hospital complete with 90 ICU beds, eight operating rooms, an X-ray lab, blood bank, along with instrument processing and materials handling, can be set up within 72 hours and surpass rigid JCAHO standards.

The operating rooms are sophisticated and capable of dealing with any type of trauma surgical case. The surgical suite is unfolded from a box the size of a transportation container and can be fully operational in a matter of hours.

“It’s very helpful for us to see under what conditions they operate in battle. We can learn a lot from the Army in treating patients in the event of a mass causality event,” Guy explained. “These men and women have a passion to excel. Watching these soldiers drill, it was clear to me that they work as a singular machine to achieve their mission of rendering care to the injured. We left the exercise on Monday grateful that we have been given the opportunity to assist these devoted soldiers in the service of our country.”

For the past three weeks, combat hospital soldiers have been at Vanderbilt performing clinical rotations at Vanderbilt’s Trauma Unit, Burn Intensive Care Unit, Operating Suites and Radiology. The rotations are designed to keep sharp the critical clinical skills that many of these soldiers used while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in Kuwait and Iraq.

“When the Army approached Vanderbilt about doing this, we just couldn’t say no,” Guy said. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

Col. Harry Warren, Commander, 86th Combat Support Hospital, was asked to find a way to keep his troops’ skills sharp while stateside. He echoed Guy, saying the new relationship was beneficial for the Army and Vanderbilt.

“Clinical proficiency is a perishable skill set that needs to be reinforced with realistic, demanding training,” Warren said. “We realized this and our Chief Wardmaster found that an existing agreement was in place with Vanderbilt. It’s helped us to develop a cost-effective program.”

It took Vanderbilt less than three weeks to respond to the Army’s request, retool the existing agreement and work out an orientation schedule.

“Missi Jarboe Williams, Betsy Bond and Sgt. John D. Perdue were instrumental in making all this happen so quickly,” Guy said.

Warren and Guy said reaction from personnel had been “overwhelmingly positive.”

“Every medic and nurse on the first rotation has commented on how well they have been received by the Vanderbilt personnel,” Warren said. “They have been made part of the team, and are getting to participate in a wide variety of trauma cases, including LifeFlight missions, the operating room, intensive care units, the burn unit, and a variety of other technical support areas, where they are getting to work with state-of-the- art equipment and with expert counterparts on the Vanderbilt staff.”

Guy said the interaction between the Vanderbilt staff and the Army proved that it was a “right fit.”

“It’s great to have these extra hands in some of the busiest units we have at Vanderbilt,” Guy said. “While they can’t function as independently as our staff, just having them here helps us tremendously in our day-today operations.”

Warren said his personnel had seen a large number of pediatric burns at field hospitals in Iraq and looked forward to the additional training they would receive at Vanderbilt.

“They are aware that the opportunity to serve in a Level One trauma center, as members of the Vanderbilt trauma team is a unique opportunity to learn the latest techniques in trauma care that will stand them in good stead when and if they are called upon to take care of American soldiers again in the future, which is a high likelihood,” Warren explained.

Guy and Warren both want to expand the current relationship and help make Vanderbilt a center of educational excellence for the Army.

“I see this as a long term training relationship between the 86th Combat Support Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center,” Warren said. “I expect that this will grow to include medical personnel from the 101st Airborne Division, and the 44th Medical Command, which is the higher headquarters of the 86th CSH.

“We anticipate adding surgeons and other types of nurses to some of our future rotations. Ultimately, we anticipate that in addition to our regular Army medics and licensed practical nurses, we will have respiratory therapists, lab and X-ray technicians; ER, ICU, and OR nurses, and general and orthopaedic surgeons.”

Currently there are 15 Army medics at Vanderbilt during the day, where they serve for a month rotation. The Army expects to have more than 150 personnel rotate throughout the year.

Guy said additional advantages of the new relationship included building trust and establishing a working relationship if the need ever arose that Vanderbilt and the Army would join forces in disaster response.