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Health and Fitness

Scalpels, Sutures, Mannequins?

The next generation of military medical training

Across the military, Sailors are taught to "train like you fight, fight like you train." At Naval Medical Center San Diego, this has never been more true.


The state of the art Bioskills and Simulation Center trains over 10,000 of military medical personnel across all branches of the military each year.

On the simulation side, high-fidelity simulation mannequins can portray several medical situations, from respiratory issues to organ failure, internal bleeding to amputations.

"They [the mannequins] can simulate breathing, heartrate, pupils," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Brian Meyer, the assistant leading petty officer of the Bioskills Simulation Center. "We also have virtual simulators, used mostly by surgeons and surgical residents, where they are able practice all sorts of laparoscopic surgeries."

Laparoscopic surgery, also called minimally invasive surgery or MIS, bandaid surgery, or keyhole surgery, is an amazing modern surgical technique where surgeons preform operations far from their location through small incisions that are usually 2/10 of inch or less elsewhere in the body. Hysterectomies, removal of ovarian cysts, abdominal surgeries and gastric bypass are just a few types of laparoscopic surgery.

These surgeries are practiced at the simulated procedure station, where doctors can practice different types of surgeries. Medical teams can also improve their skills in simulated operating rooms. This helps these teams bond and strengthen to become a more cohesive operating team.
Photo collage for the Trauma Center.


Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen can work to improve their skills by watching what they are doing through a screen and in some cases, use a touchscreen to choose to perform a variety of surgical procedures.

There are also fresh cadavers at the center; real bodies, real tissue, real organs.

"You get that real anatomy that you don't get with a mannequin," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class James Nickson, leading petty officer of the Bioskills Simulation Center. "It's all hands on training with fresh cadavers. If a doctor is doing a specific surgery, they can come down and practice on our cadaveric specimens - the anatomy is very similar to a live person's anatomy."

This means that the surgeons can practice the surgeries with real tissues, but lacking the blood flow a live person will have. Practice does make perfect after all.

Operationally, the center also helps facilitate training. On average over 900 medical personnel a month and thousands of hours of training, over 5000 hours just in June alone.

Bioskills and Simulation Center supports Naval Medical Center San Diego's mission of operational readiness, patient care, and staff and resident medical education. Fifteen surgeons conducted Advanced Surgical Skills for Exposure in Trauma, a pre-deployment requirement course that instructs surgeons in treating vital trauma injuries that are common in a combat environment.

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