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Wright State offers intense flight nurse training

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — A southwest Ohio university is offering intensive training for nursing in flight and in disasters.

Wright State University's program is sanctioned by the U.S. Air Force surgeon general, so students from the nearby Air Force Institute of Technology have been among early participants. The first class graduated in 2012 from the highly specialized two-semester program. The first semester is on advanced flight nurse training and the second on advanced disaster training.

While flight nurses traditionally concentrate on getting their patients moved safely from danger zones, the Wright State training adds more clinical practice.

Most of the training is at the university's National Center for Medical Readiness, at the 52-acre disaster training zone called Calamityville. The area has buildings, silos, tunnels, ponds, cliffs and woods for simulating war and disaster scenarios.

"Calamityville is what you'll see," said Lt. Col. Tom Wilson, an Air Force flight nurse who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and also was in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.

"For me, it's been a good review, and it's given me the ability to catch up on things that have changed in the years I've been away," said Wilson, who is working on his master of nursing degree with a sub-specialty in flight and disaster nursing.

The Wright State program is a hybrid that brings military and civilian approaches together.

"We wanted each to learn from each other," said Dan Kirkpatrick, a clinical instructor at the nursing college. He is a retired colonel who spent 34 years in the Air Force and as chief nurse at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Medical Center.

There are mannequins with missing limbs and gory-looking injuries stretched out on litters. There are exercises at night with training stations for bandaging, splinting, burn treatment, IV drips and other emergency first aid.

"The students put on a helmet with a headlamp, they crawl back through areas, they find the victims, and by the light of the headlamp, they have to start an IV," said Kirkpatrick.

"The students like it because they get to get their hands dirty," he said.

Air Force graduates return to their units to teach, train and supervise other flight nurses. Graduates have served on Air Force One and at Air Force bases around the country and in Germany and Japan.

Among guest speakers are experts from the nearby Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, a ham radio operator, and a dog search-and-rescue expert. Students tour the Ohio Emergency Operations Center in Columbus and the Air Force Aeromedical Evacuation Center at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

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