News: CSH soldiers share expertise with Iraqi providers
Story by Spc. Andrew Ingram
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq – When health care providers from the 256th Combat Support Hospital arrived at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, in December 2010, their mission was clear: provide outstanding medical care to soldiers deployed to U.S. Division – North.
Soldiers of the 256th CSH adapted to the mission naturally and quickly learned their tasks, said Capt. Ralph Pauley, registered nurse, Company B, 256th CSH.
After learning their duties, they began looking for ways to enhance their mission in support of Operation New Dawn.
“When we first got here, we wanted to work with the Iraqis and see what we could help them with as far as their medical capabilities, so we got involved with developing the Iraqi combat lifesaver course,” said Pauley, who hails from Chesterville, Ohio. “We took the Army CLS course, tweaked it a little bit and translated it into Arabic. Then, we worked with some of the U.S. Air Force already working with the Iraqi providers to implement the class.”
In the following months, U.S. service members certified approximately 125 Iraqi security forces personnel and trained nine additional Iraqi healthcare providers. Iraqis continued the training without the need for the American oversight or translators, said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Carl Van Over, a flight medic with Detachment 5, 321st Expeditionary Mission Support Advisory Group, who mentors and trains Iraqi medical personnel.
“We had pretty much a blank canvas when we got here,” said Van Over. “We started putting together the CLS classes, and Capt. Pauley and the 256th cash were very generous when it came to sourcing additional trainers. We have accomplished a lot together and now the Iraqis are running the classes themselves, which I see as a pretty big accomplishment.”
While supervising the CLS training, the American troops gauged their Iraqi counterparts’ clinic procedures and worked out a plan to make their day-to-day operations more efficient, said Pauley.
“I spoke with my commander, and we thought it would be interesting if we could teach them how to function more efficiently,” he said. “So now we bring an Iraqi provider over here to the CSH every week and shadow our physicians so [Iraqis] can see how efficiently they can operate.”
Pauley is no stranger to training others. As a member of the Army Reserve, he works as a critical care nurse at the Ohio State University Medical Center – a teaching hospital where he often assists in the training of aspiring healthcare professionals.
“It being a teaching hospital, we always have senior nursing students coming through the intensive care unit,” Pauley said. “Since I’ve been there close to nine years, I’m called on a lot to guide them through things and show them what critical care is all about.”
Something as simple as keeping records of symptoms and prescribed medicine could drastically improve the Iraqi clinics’ efficiency, and help the providers gauge patterns in the health and welfare of the troops they serve, said Capt. Heath Blaire, nurse practitioner, 256th CSH.
“These guys are really attentive – they want to see everything. So we have had a great opportunity to streamline the way they work,” said Blaire, who calls Jupiter, Fla., home.
Blaire said, in addition an improved organization system, he would like to see the Iraqi providers begin to look at their patients as a whole, taking all of their vitals into account before zeroing in on one specific problem.
“These guys are pretty good at what they do, but most of the time when somebody comes in with a complaint, they just give them medicine and send them on their way,” Blair said. “We want to show them that they can get a better sense of a patient by being more thorough.”
First Lt. Ayyub, a nurse assigned to the Iraqi air force academy clinic, said he and his comrades have learned a great deal under the American providers’ guidance.
“The Americans, especially Master Sgt. Van Over, have given us so much,” Ayyub said, after shadowing the 256th CSH team. “We have learned more than just medicine from them; even today I have learned so much about what a good hospital should look like. We have already made so many improvements, but I think we can make more so that our clinic is just as good as the CSH. We owe that to the people we serve. Our patients deserve the best care we can give them.”
That goal unifies the Iraqi and U.S. healthcare providers.
“Whether you are a doctor in Iraq or a doctor in the United States, you still have one common goal: to treat patients; to provide the best care possible,” Pauley said. “It really has been an honor to work with the providers from the Iraqi clinic.”