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Enhancing Medical Expertise: Quarterly Training Elevates Skill Proficiency

17 February 2024

From Emily McCamy

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (Feb. 16, 2024) – Some skill sets are too important to lose, that’s why round-robin training is held quarterly at U.S. Naval Hospital Guantanamo Bay.Director of Expeditionary Medicine and Department Head of Staff Education and Training (SEAT), Cdr. Alexis McDermott, coordinated the Jan. 25 event to familiarize Sailors with
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (Feb. 16, 2024) – Some skill sets are too important to lose, that’s why round-robin training is held quarterly at U.S. Naval Hospital Guantanamo Bay.

Director of Expeditionary Medicine and Department Head of Staff Education and Training (SEAT), Cdr. Alexis McDermott, coordinated the Jan. 25 event to familiarize Sailors with medical situations and techniques that are not often encountered here. The training included five different stations: Advanced Trauma Life Support “quick hits,” litter-bearer training, intravenous (IV) start in the dark, crash cart familiarization and safe food handling.

The round-robin training involved diverse scenarios, ranging from emergency response simulations to medical procedures. Sailors rotated through these stations, enhancing their proficiency in various aspects of healthcare delivery. This approach reinforced individual skills and fostered teamwork and adaptability in a medical setting.

“This training is important because we are a forward-deployed, low-volume hospital,” said McDermott. “Some sailors haven’t started an IV since being stationed here because it’s not a skill they use in the department where they’ve been assigned. These skill sets can be lost very quickly; we don’t want them to lose operational relevance.”

All employees were invited to attend the training, regardless of their background or experience.

Hospital Corpsman Almer Vincent Samaniego, a dental technician, was assigned to U.S. Naval Medical Readiness and Training Command (USNMRTC) Guantanamo Bay, as his first duty station.

“We practiced packing a gunshot wound in a field environment and then helped control bleeding on a wound that required the use of a tourniquet while at the Advanced Trauma Life Support station. I experienced this training in ‘A-school,’ but the training here was interesting and a good refresher,” Samaniego said, referring to the Navy’s Accession School where Sailors develop a working knowledge of basic principles and techniques in their career field.

“Cdr. [Andrew] McDermott did a really good job explaining how to pack a gunshot wound,” Samaniego continued. “He explained every detail and talked about the equipment and hemostat gauze in very simple terms that made it easy for anyone – even employees without medical knowledge – to understand.”

Samaniego, originally from Cavite City, Philippines, moved to Vallejo, Calif., in 2019. He lived there until he joined the Navy in 2023.

“I have never started an IV in the dark, Samaniego said, referring to the station where teams had to begin an intravenous infusion in a dark room using only a flashlight. “It was challenging and fun; it was interesting because it’s rare to practice an IV in the dark. I think it’s important training because if the power goes out, or if I am deployed and there’s a tragedy, I would be more comfortable starting an IV.”

While assigned to USNMRTC Guantanamo Bay, Sailors can focus on education and certification, so they are more skilled, confident and ready to execute the mission at their next duty stations.

In November, the hospital held a mass-casualty exercise where Sailors needed to transport patients on litters. This exercise revealed the need for litter-bearer training.

“We were transporting patients in unison, as a team, and realized this was something we could improve on,” McDermott said. “We decided that addressing it during round-robin would be a good way to get a lot of sailors trained.” In a clinical setting, the assembly and use of a litter is not common.

“We get familiar with what we do on a day-to-day basis,” McDermott said. “Getting these basics is a good way to offer the fundamentals of how to move a patient effectively.”

“Working with Marines, working on a ship or being an individual augmentee, you never know when you may be in a situation that requires your help,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Gregory Joyce, who led the litter-bearer training. “If you find yourself in an operational environment, you might be asked to be on a litter team. It’s important that you get to know your team, work with your team and get familiar with the equipment. You don’t want to go out there and have no understanding of what you’re doing. Having these fundamentals and doing quarterly training is vital, especially for patient safety.”

Joyce shared his real-world experience, taking Sailors through the basics of how to set up a litter, when to use it and how to use it successfully. He emphasized the importance of communication as the team members worked together to load, pick up and carry a patient.

“I was on a litter team when I was deployed to Afghanistan,” said Joyce, a laboratory technician. “You never know when a situation is going to come up and you need to help.”

Prior to the mass-casualty drill, Sailors practiced radio etiquette, knowing it would be tested during the exercise. Round-robin training was used to help them prepare.

“If you aren’t using radios all the time, you forget how to do it,” McDermott said.

“At the round-robins, I often ask if sailors have any topics they would like to learn about or would like to teach,” McDermott continued. “The feedback I get keeps our training team busy with plenty of topics.”

Topics also come from relevant situations encountered at the hospital.

“For the next round-robin, the dental crew has already reached out to me to teach about dental emergencies,” McDermott said. “Tooth emergencies come up, we want to train sailors what to do about them.”

Navy Medicine’s mission is to serve as a Maritime Medical Force ensuring its healthcare professionals are trained and prepared to support the fleet by caring for the health of fellow service members in any environment to keep them in the fight.

“These initiatives contribute to a culture of excellence, where U.S. Navy medical personnel are well-prepared to handle any challenges that may arise during their deployments or assignments,” said Capt. Richard Zeber, hospital director and commanding officer of USNMRTC, Guantanamo Bay.

“As these dedicated Sailors continue to sharpen their skills through initiatives like quarterly round-robin training, the hospital stands poised to provide excellent care to our community,” Zeber said.

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