VA putting former military ‘docs’ back to work - James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital - Tampa, Florida
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James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital - Tampa, Florida

 

VA putting former military ‘docs’ back to work

Intermediate Care Technicians (from left) Rosamaria Hernandez-Scales, Brandon Presnell, Daniel Friedel, Charles Gilcrease, Christopher Jason Young and ICT Supervisor Dr. Brian Coe outside the temporary Fast Track set up for the COVID-19 response.  Not pictured is ICT Joel Brown.

Intermediate Care Technicians (from left) Rosamaria Hernandez-Scales, Brandon Presnell, Daniel Friedel, Charles Gilcrease, Christopher Jason Young and ICT Supervisor Dr. Brian Coe outside the temporary Fast Track set up for the COVID-19 response. Not pictured is ICT Joel Brown.

By Ed Drohan
Thursday, April 30, 2020
A new program at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital is putting a group of former military “docs” back to work doing what they do best – providing quality medical care for their troops.

Six former Army medics, Navy corpsmen and Air Force aeromedical specialists are now part of the new Intermediate Care Technician program at the hospital.  The “docs,” a term commonly used by the troops they would treat in the field, are putting the extensive medical training they received while on active duty to connect with and continue caring for Veterans.

The ICT program allows these trained medical specialists to use that training in a VA hospital setting, something they couldn’t do in the past because of a lack of civilian certifications.

“There’s a lot of frustration because a lot of people come out of the service and come here, and the only job they can do something like health care tech,” said JAHVH Lead ICT Christopher Young.  “We lose good quality medics to the private sector or they go back in.  This gives them the opportunity to continue to serve their country in the civilian sector, and once again they’ll be able use the skills they learned in the service.”

Intermediate Care Technicians Rosamaria Hernandez-Scales and Brandon Presnell screen a patient for COVID-19 symptoms before they can enter the emergency department.

Intermediate Care Technicians Rosamaria Hernandez-Scales and Brandon Presnell screen a patient for COVID-19 symptoms before they can enter the emergency department.

In the past, military-trained medics were limited in the procedures they could do and the level of assistance they could provide to nurses and providers.  The ICT program now allows them to do such things as administer medications and injections, suture wounds and assist with patient discharge procedures.

Right now, all the ICTs are working in the emergency department, primarily assisting with screening Veterans for possible COVID-19 exposure at the hospital’s parking garage before the patients make their way to the emergency room.  This allows a possibly infectious patient to be isolated outside, minimizing risk to other patients and staff.  The eventual goal, though, is to have ICTs do rotations through various clinics to learn the ins and outs of other specialties and giving them more flexibility to work around the hospital.

“I think the big picture goal would be to have ICTs everywhere in the hospital, not just the emergency department, but the emergency department is usually where the program starts and it balloons out from there,” said Dr. Brian Coe, JAHVH emergency department assistant director and the ICT supervisor.  “In Cleveland (where the program is more widespread) they’re in the ICUs, they’re in some of the clinics, like the dermatology clinics, geriatrics clinics.  That would be the goal ultimately, to expand it so it’s everywhere.”

Intermediate Care Technicians Charles Gilcrease and Daniel Friedel screen a patient for COVID-19 symptoms before allowing them into the emergency department.

Intermediate Care Technicians Charles Gilcrease and Daniel Friedel screen a patient for COVID-19 symptoms before allowing them into the emergency department.

While the ICT program has been ongoing around the VA for several years, the Tampa program has been up and running for less than a month.  In that time, the ICTs have already been introduced to both online and hands-on training facilitated by both Coe and Dr. Timothy McGuirk, the JAHVH emergency department director.  The goal is to refresh the skills they were taught and practiced in the military.

“We’ll take care of these courses and at the same time, when it comes to hands-on or advanced hands-on skills, we have lean on Dr. Coe and Dr. McGuirk to give us the blessing that we are capable and competent enough to perform said skills,” Young said.

Coe said he was thrilled when JAHVH was approved for the ICT program.

“I think these guys have talents that were completely underutilized,” Coe explained.  “I think it bridges the gap between the Veteran patient and the staff and I think, from all the metrics we look at – length of stay, return ED visits – statistically speaking the ICT helps with all those metrics as well.  So, you can objectively measure as well as subjectively look at it and say this is a win-win in every way you look at it.”

For Young, Veterans taking care of Veterans is a win-win as well.

“Who better to take care of our own but us?”

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