RAPID CITY, S.D. - Five flight medics from the South Dakota Army National Guard will be some of the first in the nation to complete the Home Station Paramedic Training Program, which allows Army flight medics to attain their National Registry Paramedic (NRP) certification close to home. The program is an alternative to the paramedic courses offered at the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School.
The soldiers were recognized at a ceremony Thursday, Oct. 31, at Camp Rapid for graduating from the NRP program through Western Dakota Technical Institute. The soldiers are participants of a pilot program designed to train experienced flight medics at existing local NRP programs close to air ambulance units’ or soldiers’ home of record. All that remains for the soldiers to become NRP certified is the final exam, scheduled for Nov. 9 in Denver.
The Home Station Paramedic Training Program is part of an Army initiative to attain NRP certification and critical care training of Army flight medics. The goal is to further enhance the level of pre-hospital trauma care available to soldiers at or near the point of injury to treat and stabilize, as well as provide in-flight medical care to the critically injured while being transported aboard air ambulances during peacetime and combat operations.
The course is a National Guard Bureau endorsed Reserve component prototype, which replaces the nine-month active-duty component course conducted at Fort Sam Houston through the University of Texas in San Antonio. The training model aims to reduce costs and increase the number of available seats for students to attend. The cost savings per student is projected to be about $19,000.
“The focus of this program is the ability of our soldiers to get this training close to home,” said Billi Jo Bierle, specialty branch officer for the 109th Regional Support Group. “Having them get the training locally eliminates the need for them to move for nine months. It saves money and allows the soldiers to focus on their studies without leaving their home, family or Guard unit.”
“I don’t know if I would have been able to do the course if I had to leave for months to attend the school in Texas,” said Spc. Alyssa Weaver, of Spearfish, S.D. “It’s difficult to send students away for long periods of time, especially if they have kids, a spouse, job or career. It’s nice to be able to complete it here.”
Army Lt. Col. Paul Dueringer, aeromedical evacuation operations officer for the National Guard Bureau, who is overseeing the pilot program, said experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan have highlighted the requirement for an increased level of advanced pre-hospital trauma and critical care transport capability in Army medical evacuation units.
“An analysis of this emerging medical requirement indicates the most effective course of action towards achieving higher survival rates and improving patient outcomes is through NRP training and certification of Army flight medics,” said Dueringer. “This program is designed to help fulfill that requirement.”
The vast majority of soldiers who die on the battlefield do so before reaching a physician, according to the Department of Defense’s Defense Manpower Data Center. The center’s analysis of medical evacuation mission requirements supports providing additional specialized advance trauma management at or near the point of injury.
“The 92 percent survival rate in Afghanistan is the highest in history because of the efficiency and effectiveness of our unparalleled medical evacuation (medevac) capability and health service support network on the battlefield,” said Dueringer. “This program will help to ensure we maintain that level of proficiency.”
Dueringer says an Army National Guard medevac unit manned with registered National Registry Emergency Medical Technicians-Paramedics (NREMT-Ps) – civilian standard of care for life-flight – deployed to Afghanistan highlighted the impact the higher level of trauma and critical care training has on patient outcomes.
“Comparison of the survivability and patient outcomes between the standard flight medic (EMT-B) and California Army National Guard NREMT-P flight medics revealed that NREMT-Ps have a 66-percent higher survival rate,” said Dueringer. “It is estimated that 15-28 percent of all battlefield pre-hospital deaths are potentially salvageable with advanced trauma care capability.”
To help improve the survivability rate of soldiers under their care, Staff Sgt. Joseph Larson, Staff Sgt. Jared Sampson, Sgt. Rachel Hobbs, Sgt. Adam Max, and Spc. Alyssa Weaver, all flight medics with Company C, 1-189th Aviation Regiment, began the six-month course at Western Dakota Tech in May.
The five medics were on military orders and their primary duty was to attend class five days a week, with clinical labs. They also attended weekend drill training to maintain their flight qualifications as required by their unit commander.
“It been a short, but long road and the training was intense. It feels good to finally have this portion completed,” said Sgt. Adam Max, of Rapid City, S.D. “With a lot of us just getting back less than a year ago from a deployment overseas, this kind of paramedic training is greatly beneficial.”
“To go through the program here and have internships with local fire departments and paramedics and get a feel for critically injured patient care was very valuable,” said Weaver. “It was a lot of studying and we all worked really hard in class. It was a benefit that we could sit in our own couch and study.”
Dueringer says the success of this Army flight paramedic initiative will support three lines of effort.
First, it will significantly improve the ARNG’s pre-hospitalization trauma and critical care transport capability in support of its war-time poly-trauma patient transport mission; second, it supports interoperability with civilian medical counterparts by enhancing the ARNG’s ability to integrate planning and response efforts with local, state, and domestic operations partners; and third, it supports the Department of Defense Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force efforts in creating opportunities for service members to earn civilian occupational credentials and licenses.
With these skills in hand, Weaver feels she and her classmates are ready for their final test.
“We still have a week to prepare for our final exam and we will brush up on everything, but I feel like we are ready to take the test,” said Weaver. “This kind of option for flight medics to become NRP certified is awesome. It will do great things for the medevac community. ”