Cadaver training prepares AF medics for real-world encounters

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michael Ellis
  • 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs
The study of human anatomy has helped further medical science since the third century. Often reserved for medical students or researchers, cadaver training at the 59th Medical Wing is helping medical technicians today build confidence and hone critical life-saving skills.

The new breed of Air Force medics is testing the concept by verifying the effectiveness of cadaver training in the Sustainment for Trauma and Resuscitation Skills Program, according to Staff Sgt. Reginald Gilchrist, the NCO in charge of the STARS-P.

“The high fidelity medical simulators we utilize during the course are some of the most advanced on the market, but still do not compare to working on cadavers,” Gilchrist said.

The training environment is also a safe place for students to experience the gamut of emotions that come from being in a situation where someone’s life may depend on how a medic reacts.

Unless one has worked in a trauma unit, “most medics don’t get to observe and treat patients with life-threatening injuries until they deploy,” Gilchrist said. “Most will experience it for the first time when they get to a combat environment.”

Airman 1st Class Edward Robinson, a 559th Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician, said the hands-on training was very beneficial since she has yet to deploy.

“Now I have a mental picture of what to expect and won’t freeze up from the shock of seeing something like this for the first time,” she said.

That’s what Gilchrist aims to do with students so they can experience their emotional reactions in a classroom setting first.

“It gives us the opportunity to go through the steps and talk about what we can do for the patients, along with what we can do for ourselves to prepare psychologically for theses encounters,” he added.

Another student described how the uncertainty from not knowing what to do turned into self-confidence after she completed the course.

“This training gets rid of the shock and anxiety, so when the time comes I can hit the ground running and be ready to perform,” said Tech. Sgt. Frances Hodge, the 433rd Aerospace Medicine Squadron NCO in charge of physical exams. “Ultimately, all the hands-on experience I can get will just make me a better medic.”

The transformation students make once they attend the course is a rewarding experience for Gilchrist.

“You’ll see someone hesitantly walk in the room, feeling nervous and not wanting to even look toward the operating table,” he said. “Later, that same person will perform with confidence and take the initiative as we go through the various procedures learned during the course.”