ARABIAN GULF (NNS) -- The amount of teamwork involved in any mission is key to determining its level of success, and for the medical department aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), successful mission readiness is essential to saving lives.
The Kearsarge medical team is made up of an integration of multiple commands that each have a critical role in the care and treatment of the embarked Sailors and Marines of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group(KSGARG).
One detachment, Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 4, from Little Creek, Virginia, embarked aboard Kearsarge, is responsible for continuous patient care during medical evacuations (medevac) to shore for additional or follow-on treatment.
To ensure that FST 4 is at the highest mission readiness status at all times, the surgical team routinely conducts medevac drills where they simulate providing care to injured patients during each phase of transportation to higher echelon medical care, including during transportation in military aircraft.
"During this drill, we spent 45 minutes in flight providing care to our patient, doing continuous head-to-toe assessments, administering sedation and pain medications, and checking lines, drains and equipment," said Lt. Kathleen Kostka, a critical care nurse attached to FST 4. "To further enhance our training, we simulated several complications in the [MV-22] Osprey while in flight to make it as realistic as possible."
The in-flight drills provide an opportunity for the crew to become familiar with similar scenarios and procedures in the event of a real-life casualty in which a patient would need to be transferred off of the ship.
"We spent the time fine-tuning our skills that we have worked on during previous static trainings in the Ospreys on the Kearsarge's flight deck," said Kostka. "We are always learning to work more effectively as a team, and for our movements and communication to become more fluid in such an intense, challenging environment."
Because of in-flight fluctuations such as turbulence and pressure change that alter the way patient care is provided, the training exposes the crew to challenges they would not face while providing care on the ship.
"The training helped to refresh previous knowledge about the medevac procedure of a patient," said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Retricia Richardson, a respiratory therapist attached to FST 4. "It helped me to realize the importance of making sure we have a sufficient amount of people to help when transporting a patient from the ICU [intensive care unit] to the flight deck without any tubes or cords being dislodged from the patient and no harm is done to the patient in the process."
Constant training is essential for the FST 4 crew in order to stay prepared for future challenges when caring for Sailors and Marines aboard Kearsarge or in flight.
"Never will there be a scenario where we will go about doing the exact same thing; each patient is completely different," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Tracey Farris, an intensive care corpsman attached to FST 4. "Even if we had two patients with the exact same injury, their bodies would react differently to the treatments and medications we provide. So our level and standard of care would be the same, but the way we treated the patient would be different."
"My corpsmen always exceed my expectations during medevac training and this was no exception," said Kostka. "Training opportunities like this ensure that we maintain the highest quality of care that we provide our Marines and Sailors on a daily basis."
Kearsarge is the flagship for the KSGARG and, with the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
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