FORT POLK, La. –
Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital is hosting a medical skills readiness rotation for 32nd Hospital Center at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana for the first time since 2019.
Prior to COVID-19 the two units mutually supported each other twice annually to ensure Soldiers assigned to the field hospital maintained the skills necessary to remain proficient in their military occupational specialties. Nurses, laboratory technicians, logisticians and maintenance personnel from 32nd HC began a four-to-six week hands-on training session Jan. 18 at BJACH.
Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Morris, senior clinical noncommissioned officer, coordinates and tracks all individual critical task list training opportunities for and BJACH.
“Each MOS has certain tasks that are relevant to their jobs. As Soldiers we must be proficient in both a field and garrison environment,” she said. “We are reestablishing our MSR rotations with the 32nd to allow field hospital Soldiers time to work at BJACH, ensuring they get hands-on experience with real patients. We are also working with 32nd HC to get our Soldiers out to the field hospital to practice their tactical medical skills. Ultimately this partnership is a win-win for both units.”
Morris said that COVID-19 remains a priority for the 32nd HC but she is working closely with their clinical operations department to reinvigorate rotational opportunities for their Soldiers throughout the year.
Sgt. 1st Class Marketta Noble, clinical operations NCO for 32nd HC said rotations at BJACH are essential to the unit because it allows Soldiers the opportunity to serve the community and have in person patient contact while conducting real-time skills assessments to maintain MOS qualifications.
“Medical readiness skills rotations put a spotlight on the importance of giving our Soldiers the opportunity to work in a clinical setting,” she said. “This makes us even more ready and capable when called upon to deploy for various missions both at home and abroad.”
Noble said the Soldiers participating in this rotation already have the baseline skills and this experience is designed to enhance those skills and ensure ICTLs are completed.
“I think working with a variety of patients versus training with notional patients and simulators is important,” she said. “Learning to be sympathetic and developing interpersonal skills with patients goes beyond taking vitals or conducting assessments.”
Noble said medical skills must be practiced regularly and repetitively to maintain competence.
Sgt. Kandice Banks and Spc. Anton Majewski, medical laboratory specialists from 115th Field Hospital, 32nd HC are working in BJACH’s pathology department during the MSR.
Majewski said his mission at the field hospital is deployment readiness.
“We focus on maintenance and functionality of our equipment,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to increase our skills and concentrate on the clinical side of the job.”
Banks said she just returned from a deployment and the equipment used in a field environment is much different than what is used in the laboratory at BJACH.
“This is a great refresher for me with getting my lab skills back together since our deployment,” she said. “It is important to be familiar with lab work in both environments.”
Banks said technology and procedures are constantly changing and it is important to stay current.
Spc. Saul Escobedo, a biomedical equipment specialist for the 115th FH said in order to complete his ICTLs he has to do certain activities in a fixed medical treatment facility.
"We have routine scheduled services on our equipment periodically throughout the year in my unit,” he said. “We get introduced to medical equipment regularly, but we look at the same types of equipment and it can be repetitive. This is a great opportunity to be here for the exposure to different equipment, different problems and I get to do different diagnostic tests that I wouldn’t normally get to do.”
Sgt. Jenna Stroke, licensed practical nurse with the 433rd Medical Detachment, 115th FH, 32nd HC is doing her MRS rotation in the labor and delivery and mixed medical surgical departments.
“I’m here to brush up on skills and learn new things,” she said. “I’ve had the opportunity to do rotations at BJACH and CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in Alexandria in the past.”
Stroke said the difference between nursing in a field hospital versus a fixed facility are the walls.
“In a field environment we are in tents,” she said. “We saw everything from COVID-19 to trauma patients during our recent deployment. Our scope of practice during a deployment is a bit larger too because we don’t always have registered nurses with us.”
Stroke said caring for actual patients is the most important part of the MSR rotation.
“Unless we are deployed we only get to participate in simulations,” she said. “Giving IVs, administering medications, getting one on one interactions with patients and hands-on opportunities is not something we get on daily basis in the field hospital.”
Stroke said having opportunities to train at BJACH and other civilian hospitals gives her exposure to a variety of patients she might not normally see in a deployed setting.
“At Cabrini we saw geriatric and cancer patients which isn’t something we’d normally see in a military treatment facility,” she said. “The more exposure we have to patients in as many facilities as possible will enhance our medical readiness.”