109AW medical personnel train at local hospital

  • Published
  • By Jaclyn Lyons
  • 109th Airlift Wing

New York Air National Guard flight nurses and medical technicians assigned to the 109th Airlift Wing at Stratton Air National Guard outside Schenectady, New York are getting more hands-on training at a major hospital in nearby Albany.


St. Peter’s Hospital, a 442-bed facility which is the cornerstone of the regional St. Peter’s Health Partners network, is allowing the 109th’s aeromedical evacuation flight nurses and medical group technicians to work in its emergency room and intensive care unit.


A new Air Force requirement mandates 40 hours of work in those environments every two years.


The new training requirement is relatively easy for Active Air Force medical personnel to meet because there is normally a near-by military hospital, according to Master Sgt. Randy Welch, the 109th Operations Group training manager.


But for Air National Guard units that are typically not located near a military treatment facility, getting the time in those hospital environments can be tricky, Welch said..


Medical personnel who are traditional drilling Guard Airmen and work in a hospital meet the requirement doing their day-to-day job, Welch said. The issue is finding opportunities for Guard medical personnel assigned to the wing’s 139th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and Medical Group that don’t work day-to-day in a hospital to get the training they need, he said.


Welch spoke with his wife, who works at St. Peter’s about the challenges he was having finding training opportunities. She suggested he contact the hospital to see if a partnership could be made.


After a few months of meetings, a base tour, a mission brief for some of the hospital staff and working out the legalities of it all, a Training Affiliation Partnership was established, Welch said.


Capt. Connie Anderson, a full-time Guard member assigned to the 139th Aeromedical Squadron, is a registered nurse, but doesn’t get the opportunity for a lot of hands-on patient care. So, she volunteered right away to take part in the program.


“I jumped at the chance to be the first person to pilot this program- I can tell you that it has helped me maintain the competency I need to make sure I am ready to take care of our patients in the air,” Anderson said.


Aeromedical Evacuation crews and critical care transport teams are the Airmen who provide medical care to personnel being evacuated from a combat zone, disaster zone or humanitarian crisis onboard an aircraft to a larger more capable hospital outside that area or in the United States.


Due to the nature of her job, the only time she would get experience with patient care is when she is deployed, Anderson said. 


“We train constantly with mannequins and scenarios but having hands on patient care really makes the difference. You get that immediate feedback true from the patient themselves,” Anderson said


Airmen are required to complete four hours of computer-based training before starting in the hospital and work with a preceptor, an experienced clinician that supervises students during clinical rotations, during their shifts.


The preceptors that the Airmen work with at St. Peter’s are employed full time at the hospital and are also drill status Guardsman assigned to the 139th.


That can be helpful, Welch explained, because they are familiar with the military requirements and expectations of the Airmen who are there to train.


According to Welch, two more nurses from the 109th Medical Group will be starting the training this year. 


Welch said he hopes to expand on the program and to have more Airmen take advantage of this opportunity to receive the training they need, within the community they live.