HORSHAM, Pa. – More than a dozen Air National Guard members from six states learned the ABCs during a medical course hosted by the 111th Medical Group.
Not the song to teach preschoolers the alphabet, but the "ABCDE" approach to treating trauma patients.
The 111th Medical Group hosted 16 ANG members from nine units in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas for the Advanced Trauma Life Support course, or ATLS, on Biddle Air National Guard Base Sept. 28-29, 2021.
U.S. Air National Guard Col. Adam Vernardakis, New Hampshire state air surgeon and ATLS instructor, broke down the alphabetic mnemonic taught during the two-day course.
"It's a simplified algorithmic approach for trauma management," said Vernardakis. "A stands for airway with surgical motion restriction. B stands for breathing and making sure they're getting enough oxygenation, making sure they're outgassing enough. C stands for circulation, mainly with hemorrhage control, looking for the source of the bleeding and making sure you're stabilizing the patient. D is disability, looking for neurologic problems that are going to ultimately lead to an early demise, and E, exposure in environment control."
This is the second time the 111th Medical Group has hosted ATLS, which was developed by the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma and introduced in 1980.
When ANG Col. Scott Coradi, former 111th Medical Group commander, reached out to the National Guard Bureau about hosting ATLS, it resulted in the first ATLS course being offered at Biddle ANG Base in January 2021.
Lt. Col. Denise Winters, a clinical nurse and medical administrator with the Missouri National Guard and ATLS course coordinator, explained why bringing ATLS to the 111th Medical Group was no easy task.
"There's a lot that goes into hosting a course," said Winters. "You have to have a certified site. You have to have directors, a course coordinator, and then there's quite a bit of work that goes into putting on the course between planning and then executing."
The class was filled to capacity, with interest in the course outnumbering the number of seats available. However, the hard work to host the course paid dividends for the 111th Medical Group and the 16 students in attendance.
The average cost of a civilian ATLS course can exceed $1,000, but by hosting ATLS at the 111th Medical Group, the National Guard Bureau and individual units save money because it allows service members to attend the mandatory course while on military orders for a much lower cost.
The 111th Medical Group also reduced waste by using expired medical equipment donated by Pennsylvania University Health System & Tower Health and mitigated risk by training on SimMan, a type of training mannequin designed to provide a realistic, low-risk training environment.
Winters said medical professionals are required to have ATLS as part of their Comprehensive Medical Readiness Program, or CMRP, with the goal of the course being to provide lifesaving skills, regardless of their experience in medical trauma.
"They walk away with the ability to identify life-threatening injuries and how to intervene appropriately," said Winters. "We talk about ABCDE … airway, breathing, circulation, disability and exposure. If you can identify in the first few minutes of a patient being injured any of those life-threatening injuries and how to intervene appropriately, you can save somebody's life."