Great Falls College MSU, Malmstrom join forces to offer medical training
GREAT FALLS – As an Air Force medic assigned to Malmstrom Air Force Base, Senior Airman Jeslyn Raetz's day-to-day duties include checking in patients, examining blood pressure and other vital signs, performing limited patient care, assisting her primary care provider, and educating patients and their families.
However, Raetz is trained to offer a much greater scope of medical care. Her training has prepared her to take care of people injured on a battlefield or assist with major procedures in a large hospital. The medical group at Malmstrom offers an array of primary and specialty care services, while higher levels of care, like surgeries, are deferred to the Great Falls network. Simple procedures are performed at the clinic, but it is not a hospital.
"We may do one or two IVs every other week or so," Raetz said.
Working in a primary care clinic means Raetz and her colleagues do not have the chance to utilize many of the more advanced skills they learned in Air Force Technical School on a regular basis. While their training is some of the best in the world, maintaining that proficiency requires on-going practice and experience.
A new partnership between Great Falls College MSU and Malmstrom AFB is now giving them that opportunity. Through its Lifelong Learning division, GFC MSU is offering courses to help some of the medical staff on base refresh their skills.
"There are a lot of things our technicians won't practice every day," said Master Sgt. Eric Greene, who is in charge of education and training for the 341st Medical Group. "This helps refresh our technicians on skills they're going to need, especially if they're called upon to deploy."
On a recent afternoon, a dozen airmen filled the Simulated Hospital at Great Falls College MSU and practiced starting IVs on the college's mannequins.
"It's definitely good to refresh those skills and use them," Raetz said.
The training was a chance for medics, nurse technicians and other medical staff to brush up on their skills, and also an opportunity for Malmstrom to partner with the local community, Greene said.
The vision for the partnership came from Lt. Col. Courtney Finkbeiner, commander of the 341st Medical Operations Squadron.
"She wanted more for our medical technicians," Greene said. "She laid the groundwork for something pretty incredible."
The training partnership between Malmstrom and GFC MSU will likely last for several years.
A total of 48 Airmen will go through these monthly trainings. The curriculum will focus on different skills, ranging from starting IVs to emergency procedures.
"After all of them have been through the same skill, we'll move on to the next skill," said GFC MSU nursing instructor Russ Motschenbacher, who is teaching many of the courses.
The trainings take place in the college's Simulated Hospital, which is set up with the same equipment that can be found in a real hospital. The Sim Hospital is designed to give students real-word experience in a controlled environment.
The training for Malmstrom is just one example of the customized trainings offered through GFC MSU Lifelong Learning.
"The idea behind customized training is to work one-on-one with community partners and develop training programs that fit their unique needs," said Heather Palermo, director of Great Falls College MSU Lifelong Learning.
In the past GFC MSU has also partnered with the Great Falls Food Manufacturing Network for a course on food safety rules, and with a hospital in Philipsburg to provide special training to some nurses. The College previously partnered with Malmstrom on welding training for civilian Air Force employees. The college has also offered welding training for two different companies in Lewistown, as well as Canadian Welding Bureau training and testing.
Lifelong Learning courses aren't offered for credit, so they're less expensive than traditional college courses, and customized training can be tailored to an employer's needs and time frame. Courses can last anywhere from a few hours to several months.
The airmen appreciate the opportunity to partner with the community, Greene said. The training teaches skills, and also builds relationships. If there were ever a natural disaster or other major emergency in Great Falls, Malmstrom would work closely with community organizations.
"It's good to know how the community trains," Greene said. "It's really important that we have good relationships with the community."
It's also a great opportunity for Great Falls College MSU.
"For the college, it's definitely a great partnership, a lasting partnership," Motschenbacher said.
GFC MSU nursing students will help with some of the trainings.
"It gives the nursing students a chance to teach what they've been practicing, to share their skills, which is what nursing is all about," Motschenbacher said.
For the airmen involved, it was exciting to break away from their normal training topics to work on the skills that truly define them as medics – saving lives.
"People are the Air Force's most valuable asset," Greene said. "Their training is key. The difference between mission success and mission failure is education and training."
By Erin Granger
Great Falls College MSU News Service
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