Battlefield medic training in Charlottetown mimics intense, high-stress conditions

Reservists from Nova Scotia and the Prince Edward Island Regiment joined students and instructors from Holland College's paramedicine program for two days of intensive medic training this weekend.

Holland College faculty assist with training designed to test medics' clinical skills under pressure

Reservists from Nova Scotia joined the Prince Edward Island Regiment for intensive medic training this weekend in Charlottetown. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Amid bright flashes of light from explosions and the sharp cracks of gunfire, Cpl. Kristen Robinson tries to keep her mind clear as she attends to a wounded soldier laying in the middle of a simulated battlefield. 

"Your heart starts pumping and you get really excited, but once you go in it gets really stressful," Robinson said. "I try to take is slow, and breathe."

Robinson, a medic with the Halifax 33-Field Ambulance, was one of dozens of reservists from Nova Scotia who joined  the Prince Edward Island Regiment, along with students and instructors from Holland College's paramedicine program, for two days of medic training this weekend.

Cpl. Kristen Robinson, a medic with the Halifax 33-Field Ambulance, says it is a challenge to stay calm in battlefield conditions. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Maj. Trevor Jain, the surgeon for the 36 Canadian Brigade Group — which the P.E.I. regiment is a part of — and the program director of paramedicine at Holland College, said the simulation is designed to prepare medics to perform battlefield care within high-stress scenarios.

"It's much different when the enemy's firing at you. There's smoke, there's bullets flying, there's loud noises and it's people in front of you, your peers, that are injured," Jain said. "It's a different way to bring that medicine to the patient. It's much more stressful."

Stepping out of your comfort zone

This was the fifth time the regiment hosted the battlefield medic training in Charlottetown. 

Jain said P.E.I. is in an ideal position to host the intensive training due in large part to the regiment's partnership with the paramedicine program at Holland College.

The annual training program brings the Prince Edward Island Regiment, the Halifax 33-Field Ambulance and Holland College together to test their skills in a battlefield simulation. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"P.E.I. has probably one of the best paramedicine programs in Canada," he said. "The faculty at Holland College are outstanding and it just made sense with some of the military members also working at Holland College, to develop that relationship with the Halifax unit." 

To prepare for the simulation, reservists were trained in clinical skills such as advanced trauma life support.

Brent Nicholson, a faculty member in the paramedic program, said Holland College provides training space, equipment and instructors to assist with the training. 

Brent Nicholson, a faculty member in the paramedic program, said he welcomes the opportunity to assist with the training. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"What we can provide is expertise in that core medical skill set of trauma medicine," he said. "It's nice to be able to give back a little bit, but also to learn." 

Nicholson said the training also gives paramedic faculty and students the opportunity to test their clinical skills outside of the emergency room and civilian EMS situations.

"It's really been a wonderful relationship where we get to step out of our comfort zones, but do what we do well, which is train people in emergency medical skills," he added.

As real as possible  

Robinson said she participated in the simulated battlefield training last year and the opportunity to train in Charlottetown and collaborate with medics and infantry in the Prince Edward Island Regiment was an invaluable experience.

"Since we're from Nova Scotia, we get to meet all these new P.E.I. medics and we all have different knowledge and skills that we can bring together learn more from," Robinson said.

To prepare for the simulation, reservists received training in clinical skills such as advanced trauma life support. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"It's a great environment to learn in," she added. 

Robinson added the battlefield simulation is an intense experience that brings a level of realism to her training that she can't get anywhere else and she plans to return to the simulated front line next year.