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European-African Military Nursing Exchange conference strengthens interoperability for Allied, partner nations

  • Published
  • By Lt. Mary A. Andom
  • USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs

Editor's note: Prior to June 12, 2024, the Air Force Medical Command was referred to as AFMED. The Secretary of Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Air Force signed the Air Force Medical Command Program Action Directive on June 12 authorizing the establishment of the command as a direct reporting unit to the CSAF. Per the PAD, the new organizational structure’s official name is Air Force Medical Command and it is abbreviated AFMEDCOM.

Col. Caroline Kithinji, a Kenya Defence Forces senior nursing officer, watched intently on the screen as nurses from Slovenia and Comoros performed life-saving care to a motionless solider during a simulated medical scenario.

Kithinji, was one of 130 military nursing professionals who attended the European-African Military Nursing Exchange conference, May 21-24, 2024, in Garmisch Partenkirchen, Germany. Nurses, medical professionals and delegates from 21 Allied and partner nations, including sister services, shared medical knowledge, innovative solutions and professional best practices.

“The exchange program exposed us to advanced medical evacuation and training equipment,” the 23-year nurse said. “This is the type of high-tech equipment and training the nurses in our military can benefit from.”

This year’s conference, hosted by U.S. Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa, featured talks from various international medical professionals, centered on the theme, ‘Advancing Military Medical Readiness and Interoperability.’

Maj. Gen. Jeannine M. Ryder, commander of the Air Force Medical Agency, and Senior Master Sgt. Lacy Boyd, Aerospace Medical Service / Surgical Services career field manager, discussed the future state of the Nurse Corps during the conference.

“I want to thank you for what you do every single day,” said Ryder. “Not only is it a service to be in the military but we also have a great responsibility of taking care of people. Interoperability means exercising and training together in realistic environments. We have to be prepared with agile, flexible teams ready for the next fight.”

EAMNE provides nursing professionals an opportunity to step outside of the clinic to build meaningful relationships across military branches and borders, said Lt. Col. Kimberly M. Monti, 52nd Medical Group chief nurse and EAMNE lead.

“This conference facilitates sharing of knowledge and expertise to include best practices, new research, and innovative approaches to military nursing challenges” said Monti. “Exposure to diverse perspectives fosters cultural exchange and understanding as well as enhancing military readiness and interoperability.”

Nursing professionals drew on their personal experience in the field to share lessons learned with attendees.

During the event, Command Sgt. Maj. Ilir Rama, a Kosovo Security Forces Medical Regiment nurse, briefed participants on the evolution of Kosovo’s medical capabilities.

Rama discussed the importance of adapting to an ever-changing medical environment. He plans on sharing the knowledge learned at conference with his senior leadership and medical personnel to develop and implement an overall military medical training plan.

“This event has been a worthwhile experience to exchange our professional expertise to increase interoperability and cooperation with partner nations,” said Rama. “If we can continue to work together, we can improve and build our own medical capabilities along with neighboring nations.”

This year’s conference provided nurses and medical professionals the opportunity to share academic research, build collaborative relationships and strengthen interoperability with partner and Allied counterparts.

During one session, Maj. Shanna Vaughan, an international health specialist with the Office of the Command Surgeon, USAFE-AFAFRICA, presented research on the gender disparity in Tactical Combat Casualty Care.

"Battle-injured females had a higher case fatality rate compared to their male counterparts,” said Vaughan. “The response time could be diminished when we have training with anatomically correct male and female manikins. It could save lives.”

Attendees practiced life-saving skills with realistic manikins through classroom instruction and hands-on training. Training focused on the treatment of massive bleeding, airway, respiration, circulation, hypothermia and head injuries.

In addition, attendees received continuing education credits for the attendance of plenary sessions and hands-on simulation.

To culminate the event, EAMNE participants tested their TCCC skills with a capstone exercise. During a fictitious bomb explosion, five teams of international medics rushed to provide immediate lifesaving care to three critically wounded patients. The nurses utilized the skills learned during the conference to treat patients with wounds varying in severity from arterial bleeds to minor lacerations.

Overlooking snow-capped mountains, Kithinji said she is grateful for the opportunity to attend the conference and travel outside of Kenya to Europe for the first time. She swapped mobile numbers with African and European participants with hopes of keeping in touch.

“I’m excited to return home and share what I learned this week with my leadership and my medical field colleagues,” said Kithinji. “This experience has been very rewarding. I’ve made some new friends and I’ve expanded my knowledge of how other nations operate their nurse corps.”

The following nations attended EAMNE 2024: Albania, Angola, Armenia, Botswana, Bulgaria, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, Ghana, Kenya, Kosovo, Malawi, Moldova, Montenegro, Nigeria, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Slovenia, United Kingdom, United States.