Improving medical skills and training doctors in austere environments
Image credit: Abdulhakim Zaggut
Muhammad M RahmanFeb 13, 2021
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Medicine around the world is very consistent in terms of theory, practice, and training. A doctor will be able to practice all over the world given that they can speak the language in the given country. This explains why many brave doctors from all around the world can travel to third-world countries or war zones with various charities. The major difference here is the environment itself in what could be described as austere. There are a number of factors to consider when practicing medicine in austere environments:
- Power cuts: hospitals will have generators but in war zones, emergency operations may have to be performed without power or in makeshift surgery tents
- Equipment: advanced machines like MRI scanners may not be available; alternative methods or workarounds may be required
- Materials: if there is a sudden influx of casualties due to a bomb blast, vital materials could run out; so, what are the most viable alternatives?
- Hygiene: the environment may not allow for high standards of cleanliness, sterile equipment may be lacking
- Workload: when there are a large numbers of casualties, the priority will be to perform life-saving procedures and ignore aesthetic aspects of surgery due to time constraints
A recent article by a surgeon with experience of war surgeries suggests that the surgeons can be trained using unconventional equipment and simulators to improve their ability to treat a patient in a war zone . Examples include using cheap plaster molds to make jaw models for teaching as well as using sheep heads to demonstrate craniotomy. The best training simulators are very expensive so what alternative training models or techniques can you suggest that would help doctors operating in austere environments? It is worth considering the availability and cost of the simulators? How about teaching methods? Do you have any ideas regarding effective teaching or training methods in the absence of computers or any other high-end technology?
1. Zaggut AW et al. Training Non-Specialists for Craniomaxillofacial Trauma in a Warzone Setting. September 2020, Journal of Dentistry Open Access. DOI: 10.31487/j.JDOA.2020.02.06