Practicing basic emergency response to save lives at Dil Chora Hospital, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, Oct. 15, 2010

A cadre of 23 nurses from the Dil Chora Hospital, many with up to 20 years of practical experience, attended a week-long Emergency Medical Technician course here Oct. 15.

The first-ever course of its kind resulted from a partnership between Dr. Manyazewal Dessie, the senior orthopedic surgeon at Dil Chora Hospital, Soldiers of the U.S. Army 418th Civil Affairs Battalion, Company C, and Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7.

The curriculum was approved by the hospital to meet its standards and consisted of basic life saving skills, blood and shock management, patient movement, respiratory and cardiovascular emergencies, and defibrillation. The primary focus of the week was hands-on practice of Cardiovascular Pulmonary Resuscitation as well as patient and trauma assessment.

“It emphasized how simple maneuvers, or just attempting CPR, can decrease the amount of casualties that are suffered at the hospital,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Heather Watts, a SeaBee with NMCB 7. “It’s not until we go back and review the basics . . . that they come back to us and helps us remember proper technique.”

The Ethiopian Ministry of Health has designated the Dil Chora Hospital as its future command and control center for area emergencies. With rising numbers of automobile accidents becoming the lead cause of trauma, more nurses will need to be confident in EMT maneuvers, said Dr. Manyazewal.

“The gap that these nurses have is handling trauma cases,” Dr. Manyazewal said. “In Ethiopia it is customary to wait for the diagnosis of the senior doctor before any treatment starts.”

The “golden hour” in the United States, the 60 minutes between when a patient is found and arrives at a medical facility for treatment, can stretch out to 6-8 hours in Ethiopia because of difficulties in transportation, Manyazewal said. A case becomes complicated by the time a doctor can see the patient and give the nurses directions, so if the nurses apply EMT techniques with confidence, the patient can be stabilized the moment he or she arrives in the general surgical ward, notwithstanding the absence of the senior doctor.

“This course will help us start treatment as the patient arrives,” said Mihret Getachew, a surgery ward coordinator with five years of experience. “If the patient starts to gasp, we will have more hope because we now know what we can do.”

“I appreciate these topics,” said Dr. Manyazewal. “It will greatly help the quality of care in this hospital.”

The nurses marked the end of the course with a coffee ceremony for the U.S. lecturers.

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