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Published in CenterView on April 09, 2012

UMMC trauma nurse to share war zone expertise with health-care providers bound for deployment

By Matt Westerfield

With 28 years of experience working as a trauma nurse, mostly in adult and pediatric emergency departments, Kevin Beasley has seen and treated untold injuries both strange and extreme.

But no matter what high-profile trauma center a nurse might work in, Beasley says nothing compares to the sort of injuries a trauma nurse will encounter in a war zone.

As a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve Nurse Corps, Beasley returned to the University of Mississippi Medical Center last March after a 432-day deployment to Afghanistan, where he treated wounded U.S. and coalition troops as well as Afghan civilians and even enemy fighters.

His next deployment looks to be slightly less intense but no less important: later this month, Beasley heads to Camp Pendleton, Calif., where he will spend four months helping the Navy write training guidelines for future health-care providers who will be deployed oversees. The goal is to prepare them for the types of extreme injuries they will face.
Currently, doctors, nurses and corpsmen are trained in essentially the same way as if they were preparing to work in ERs and trauma centers in the U.S.: they might see common injuries stemming from car wrecks or gunshots, Beasley said.

"What we don't take care of here are double and triple and quadruple amputees from IED (improvised explosive device) explosions," he said. "We don't see explosions from mortar fire here. We don't see a 7-ton vehicle rollover. We don't see traumatic hemipelvectomies, where the person is literally split in half."

Appointed by the Surgeon General of the U.S. Navy as the Operational Specialty Leader for the Navy Reserve, one of Beasley's responsibilities is to advise on issues related to operational nursing.

"One of the things we do is study training plans. We look at patterns of injury. We look at what a nurse needs if they've never deployed," he said. "There was a request by the Navy Expeditionary Medical Institute which is at Camp Pendleton to have me come out.

"I did several guest lectures at the American Military Surgeons Conference last year, and I was requested by name to come and write this curriculum."

The type of patient management Beasley aims to teach was forged by his experiences while stationed in Kandahar, where he and his medical teams treated an average of 15-30 patients per day. In a war zone, you don't have time to ask and wait, he said. You have to do and tell.

"It is an extremely aggressive way of managing a trauma patient," he said. "But at the same time it's very effective. Your standard of care is within 90 seconds from that patient hitting the door: if they have a heart rate, they ought to have two large-bore lines in them infusing warm, fresh blood products. Because that's what saves lives."

The constant flow of patients, whether at the NATO-run medical facility or on helicopter transport, keeps caregivers sharp and intensifies teamwork, said Beasley.

"You get to a point where your team of five people is working on a patient, and you don't have to speak a word. You're doing it by body language," he said.

That method of teamwork is encouraged at UMMC, and Beasley says he has seen it in the Adult Emergency Department. Jonathan Wilson, director of emergency services, agrees.

"We are the busiest ER in the state, and our nurses give the best care," Wilson said. "Kevin is good example of that. He's a very competent and compassionate nurse and really exemplifies what we want to see in an ER nurse."

While extreme trauma goes hand-in-hand with military conflict, the upside is, U.S. troops are surviving injuries they may not have in past wars, thanks to improvements in protective equipment and health care.

Wilson says Beasley is on the forefront of how war is shaping patient treatment.
"What he's about to do is a very pivotal point in health-care delivery," Wilson said. "Every time we go to war, we see advancements in health care, but we see a lag in how quickly those advancements impact civilian care.

"He's going to be at the front of that transition, and it's going to be exciting to see how that translates here."

"You always fight like you train," said Beasley, who served a year in Iraq and also has been on shorter deployments to Africa. "So however you train the deployers before they go over is how they're going to perform when they get to the battlefield. If you train them to take care of patients in that environment with the types of injuries they're going to see, that's going to make a difference.

"Because regardless of whether we're in Afghanistan, or wherever the next war will be, the battle wounds will continue to be devastating and require a level of training well beyond that we prepare for as civilian nurses."