Rationale and Implementation of a Novel Special Operations Medical Officer Course

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Fedor PJ, Dorsch J, Kharod C, Paladino L, Rush SC 21(1). 25 - 29 (Journal Article)

Background: The Air Force Special Warfare Medical Officer Course was created to address the lack of operationally focused, job-specific clinical training for medical officers (MOs). This course addresses the gap in knowledge, skill, and application of operational medicine, as well as the behavioral health, human performance, education, and medical oversight of Operators. Methods: The course was designed around the senior author's decade of experience piecing together training for his own role as a pararescue flight surgeon and informed by 5 years of flight surgeon courses, lessons learned from case studies of ill-prepared deployed physicians, and input from prehospital medicine subject matter experts. Results: Air Force pararescue and special tactics flight surgeons, physician assistants, and an independent duty medical technician (IDMT) attended. The course consisted of 10 full weekdays of didactics and skills sessions covering theory and application of operational medicine, human performance optimization, behavioral health for Operators, adult education theory, principles of prehospital clinical oversight, and other expeditionary concepts. The course culminated with combat casualty care scenario-based exercises, in which the providers performed operational medicine in full kit with weapons and simulation rounds. Discussion: For many logistical and practical reasons, civilian medical experience, traditional military medical training, existing special operations medical courses, and "merit badge" card classes are not adequate preparation for this specialized role. Focused, job-specific training should be provided to Special Operations Forces Medical Officers (SOFMO) and, ultimately, to any MO deploying in support of medics or combatants. The goal is to maximize the success of military medical operations while reducing the morbidity and mortality of combat and training casualties. Conclusion: This operationally focused MO course can serve as a model for the future training of SOFMO and has stimulated discussion for consideration of a joint approach to prehospital medical training.

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