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USAF nurses practice clinical skills while helping the team at West Suffolk trust

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Nurses and other healthcare professionals from the US Air Force are working at an NHS trust to hone their clinical skills ready for any future deployments.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and RAF Lakenheath’s 48th Medical Group have partnered up to provide a clinical learning programme that allows USAF nursing staff to bolster their experience in an NHS environment, while also providing additional support to services at the trust.

“It provides real life training and opportunities to learn, and keeps USAF staff up to date on clinical skills, ready for deployment”

Nick Jenkins

The scheme, which takes place at West Suffolk Hospital, sees military medics support NHS staff in operating rooms, the emergency department and critical care units. It has helped to benefit the hospital, which sees additional staff in place as a result of the partnership.

Under the initiative, USAF staff work to sustain and improve their high-level clinical skills which they do not regularly use at their base.

Although clinical staff at Lakenheath are combat ready, the trust highlighted that they do not incur a regular flow of patients coming through the hospital at the base, which in turn, can make sustaining their skills difficult.

Since 2010, the trust said it has welcomed nurses, surgeons and technicians all year-round to share learning and enable skill development.

Over time, the relationship has grown and expanded from the original speciality of general surgery to now include, ear, nose and throat (ENT), urology, emergency and critical care nursing, and medical technician theatre care and skills, noted the trust.

“The shared learning and best practice this partnership provides is very exciting”

Nick Jenkins

From January 2016 to now, nearly 700 surgical procedures have been performed by USAF surgeons at the hospital, it added.

Captain Scott Hiles, a 48th Medical Group nurse, has just finished a six-week rotation in trust’s emergency department. He said: “The NHS allows us to step in and get those clinical skills we may need for any future deployments we may have, which is so useful.

“I’ve really appreciated the openness and willingness of staff helping us to come and be a part of their team,” he said. “It has been fantastic, and hopefully they feel we have supported them too.”

Dr Nick Jenkins, medical director at the trust, said: “The 48th Medical Group staff are able to put their clinical skills to use working with the west Suffolk acute patient population - an opportunity not often afforded to them in their own facility.”

“It provides real life training and opportunities to learn, and keeps USAF staff up to date on clinical skills, ready for deployment,” he added.

Dr Jenkins said the trust was “very proud” of the long-term partnership, which sees regular rotations throughout the year.

He said: “It’s a really important programme, we’re committed to it and are pleased the rotations on offer have grown over the duration of the partnership – it supports positive patient care and outcomes.”

“The West Suffolk Hospital benefits from the support of USAF staff – they are part of West Suffolk teams, and the shared learning and best practice this partnership provides is very exciting,” he said. ”It’s great for patients both on the base at RAF Lakenheath and for our local community here in the west of Suffolk,” he said.

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Source: West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

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Readers' comments (1)

  • This is a brilliant idea! Im not saying that all of us OP-rehab-ward-based-mortals should practice on the battlefields, but many skills are transferable, eg wound care. And some of us would enjoy it. Great idea!

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