KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Fifty-three Afghan National Security Force members, sitting equally spaced apart in a large classroom, took an end of lesson knowledge exam to assess what they’ve learned the past several days in the first combat physician assistant course being held at the Kandahar Regional Military Hospital, April 23.
The ANSF members, comprised of Afghan National Army, Uniform Police, Civil Order Police and General Directorate of Police Special Unit members, started the course in October 2011.
“This 64-week program of instruction prepares ANSF members to be medical providers in a hospital, clinic or field setting,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Nicole Djanbatian, an education adviser with NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, deployed from Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. “It will also allow them to work as health advisers to their commanders.”
The students will have gone through four mandatory phases of training upon completion of this course. Phase one is a seven-week combat medic course which educates students on topics such as patient assessment and tactical combat casualty care. Phase two is the didactic instruction in clinical medicine and trauma. During phases three and four, the students will participate in clinical rotations at hospitals or outpatient clinics.
The inclusive program of instruction was challenging for some of the students.
“The course started with 65 students,” said Dr. Navid Rahmani, a course faculty training assistant at the KRMH. “It’s a difficult course but the remaining students are performing very well.”
“At this point in the course, most of the learning takes place in the classroom,” continued Rahmani, a Nangahar province native, “so it’s my duty to keep things interesting. The other faculty training assistants and I will do our best to ensure the students are retaining the information so they can use it in practical application.”
Afghan National Army Sgt. Maj. Abdul Wahab was a finance administrator before volunteering to attend the combat physician assistant course.
“I wanted a job that would allow me to help people and possibly save their lives, so I took the entrance test for this course and passed,” said Wahab, an eight-year ANA veteran. “All the subjects in the course, so far, have been difficult, but it’s interesting. I’m looking forward to learning about pathology and pharmacology.”
Graduates of the combat physician assistant course will be obligated to serve 36 months of medical service after completion of the course.
“The students who graduate from this program will be eligible to apply for and receive a diploma bearing the title Combat Physician Assistant,” said Los Angeles, Calif. native Djanbatian. “They will have all the privileges and responsibilities that are incumbent with the title of CPA.”
Some of those responsibilities include conducting patient histories, performing comprehensive physical exams, interpreting ancillary laboratory or radiological tests, constructing and implementing treatment plans, and initiating consults and referrals.
“Sometimes there are no doctors available at the company level, so the responsibility of taking care of injured personnel will fall on the students who will graduate from this course,” remarked Rahmani.