Sgt. Amanda Jo Brown
BAGRAM, Afghanistan – Aviation medical evacuation Soldiers are tasked with a hefty mission to retrieve injured patients and keep their vital signs stable until they can reach a hospital to receive higher level treatment.
Soldiers in C Company “Dustoff,” Task Force Phoenix, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, have made strides in improving patient care since their arrival in country last August. This is due, in part, to the inclusion of the Army’s new program in which flight nurses have been attached to the unit.
First Sgt. Brian Peplinski said having nurses on the team to help with critical patients ultimately helps achieve their goal – to save lives. He added that having nurses attached to MEDEVAC units in high-operation areas is good for the patients.
“At the end of the day, taking care of people – U.S. military, contractors, coalition forces and those in need – is what it's all about,” Peplinski said, adding that he feels extremely lucky to have the nurses working with Dustoff.
“They are very talented additions to the team,” he continued. “The nurses provide an extra set of hands in critical situations that has repeatedly made a difference in patient care and outcomes.”
Every six months, five nurses travel from stateside hospitals, such as Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C., and Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, Wash., to serve with MEDEVAC units to provide en route critical care for patients in Afghanistan.
These highly skilled nurses undergo a wealth of training upon arrival to their Dustoff team including training on the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, emergency procedures, medical equipment familiarization, as well as classes in the areas of administering medication and trauma care.
The flight nurses are trained to the level of a non-rated crew member. They complete a myriad of tasks from attending crew member briefings, cleaning windows, and ensuring all medical equipment is functional.
Capt. Tanesha Richardson, who just completed her six-month tour with the company, said she is leaving Afghanistan as a more-rounded nurse.
“This experience has been very rewarding,” Richardson said. “I’ve become more knowledgeable and independent. I now understand why certain things were done for the patient. I can see the bigger picture of what the patient has gone through.”
As Richardson ends her deployment and prepares to return to the hospital environment of the United States, she shared some of the complex situations she faced when she first got to the unit.
“One of the most challenging things for me was learning how to assess the patient in the dark while flying,” Richardson said. “You have to gather the information in a different way.”
First Lt. Jason Taylor, one of the newly arrived nurses on the Dustoff team, agreed with Richardson. He said the challenge would lie in the new surroundings.
“I think the most difficult thing about this tour will be adapting to a new environment,” Taylor said.
The nurses are well aware they will not have the controlled atmosphere that a hospital offers – such as proper lighting and a broad range of medical supplies at the ready; however, Taylor expressed confidence in the new team of nurses.
Taylor is certain that the next six months will be successful for them because of the knowledge and experience they already possess.
“(Nurses) have the skill set needed to do the job well,” he said. “It’s just a matter of applying and doing it in this environment.”
All of the nurses who have served with Dustoff, in Regional Command – East, are among the first Army nurses to receive the Air Medal for Service and Basic Army Aviation Badge.
Richardson said this experience has provided her with knowledge that she will use stateside when caring for patients.
“I think by performing my duties with (Dustoff), my skills as a nurse have broadened and given me a better understanding of injuries,” she said. “It has given me a better understanding of what patients have been through from start to finish.”
Brown serves with Task Force Falcon.