MMM: Gun Totin' Doctors

Out of their white coats and into camouflage. Doctors and nurses who volunteer for service are required to get a taste of the battlefield before they head to hospitals near war zones. They have only days to train for what they might encounter.

And what they learn from the military, may be the opposite of what they're taught in school

It’s what you might expect military recruits to go through before they're shipped off to the front lines, but these camo-clad soldiers are medical officers.

“You’re not dealing with trained war fighters in this group” said Dr. Ian Cassady.

“This is about as close as you can get, stress levels of combat, and besides shooting at them, this is all that we can do,” said hospital corpsman Brian Powers.

For one week, the doctors and nurses go through the high-intensity combat casualty care course.

Powers says the point is to raise their stress levels to help them deal with mass casualties during deployment. The physicians are taught, they could be the only doctor an injured fighters sees in the first 12 hours of care.

"The last thing you want as a casualty, have your doctor freak out and not know what to do, so that's why we stress anxiety here” said Powers.

Because blood is not readily available at combat hospitals, they also stress hemorrhage control.

Powers says that’s because troops can die from bleeding in under two minutes. He tells us you have four to six minutes to deal with airway issues.

Focusing on blood control first, instead of airways goes against what doctors and nurses are usually taught in medical school. Doctor Ian Cassady tells us it takes some getting used to.

"Completely flips everything on its head. You kind of throw what you're taught out, and almost reverse it” said Cassady.

The U.S. Military has also adopted a new tourniquet technique for the battlefield. Called the “hasty tourniquet” a doctor or medic who notices bleeding in a patients arm or leg will immediately tie it off high and tight. Then once the wound is located they’ll put a tourniquet two to four inches above it. Army officials say the technique has a 99-percent success rate of saving soldiers who are in danger of bleeding to death. Army officials say the hasty tourniquet and hemorrhage control are a few reasons we’re seeing the lowest killed in action rate in U.S. Military history.

Lieutenant Dawn Whiting says she’s glad the training is prepping her for what she might see overseas.

"But at the same time, it almost overwhelms you to know what you could face” says Whiting.

Dr. Cassady whose father was a military physician knows what he signed up for, and knows just how intense things can get in the field. Protecting himself so he can help others is a top priority.

What the medical officers learn in this training and when they’re deployed can make a difference here at home.

The doctors who helped save representative Gabrielle Giffords life after she was shot in the head in Arizona was a military surgeon.

He credits his experience at combat hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan with his ability to treat Giffords and the ten other victims of that attack.


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