Building the multi-capable medic: New deployed medical training to expand medical skills

US Air Force Medicine | 2023-04-26

By Shireen Bedi

Image of Airmen training.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Caleb Strout, 17th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron flight medicine admin technician, supplies a simulated casualty with oxygen during a training exercise at Melrose Air Force Range, N.M. August 16, 2022. The Medic Rodeo is designed to test the skills of Air Force medical technicians in both deployed and home installation environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Heimbuch)

FALLS CHURCH, VA.: The Air Force Medical Service is expanding its MEDIC-X initiative across the Air Force to ensure all Airmen assigned to medical treatment facilities are adaptable and ready for a dynamic future battlefield.

Brig. Gen. Thomas Harrell, Air Force Medical Readiness Agency commander, signed a memo on April 3 outlining the rollout of MEDIC-X across the Air Force by July 1. MEDIC-X is the Air Force Surgeon General’s initiative to ensure all medical personnel are equipped with the life-sustaining skills needed for a challenging and dynamic future battlefield where resources may be limited.

“We know the future fight will be different, and so will the idea of what it will take for us to sustain readiness,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Miller, U.S. Air Force Surgeon General. “I believe we are taking the necessary steps to do just that.”

The rollout of MEDIC-X is the Air Force Medical Service’s response to the demand for multi-capable Airmen, aligning with the Air Force Chief of Staff’s operational doctrine which requires equipping Airmen with skills that go beyond their duty title.

“We know the future fight will be different, and so will the idea of what it will take for us to sustain readiness. I believe we are taking the necessary steps to do just that.”

– Lt. Gen. Robert Miller, U.S. Air Force Surgeon General

“Future conflict will never look like wars of the past, and that is why we have to get after building multi-capable, strategically-minded Airmen today, so they can compete, deter, and win tomorrow,” Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass said. “AFDN 1-21 presents, in doctrine, expeditionary and multi-capable Airmen capable of accomplishing tasks outside of their core Air Force specialty to provide combat support and combat service support to [Agile Combat Employment] force elements.”

With MEDIC-X, every Air Force medic, including those not involved in patient care like administrators or lab technicians, will need to be proficient in 52 skills that will ensure the Air Force’s medical force is ready for the next fight.

“These 52 skills are not normally within a majority of medical group training,” said Lt. Col. Samantha Kelpis, the Air Force Medical Service’s MEDIC-X team lead. “An administrator doesn’t normally do any hands-on patient care. MEDIC-X trains them on skills they will need in a challenging deployed environment where the priority is not going to be completing administrative tasks, it is going to be saving lives. When they are deployed and resources are limited, they need to know how to perform some level of patient care.”

MEDIC-X’s 52 skills encompass base-level patient care that is easily teachable through hands-on, in-person training to any medical personnel, whether they treat patients regularly or not. The training includes such skills as assessing pain levels, infection control, taking a patient’s vital signs, assisting with spinal immobilization, patient movement, and respiratory care.

According to Kelpis, every medical Airman must participate in the full annual training or demonstrate competency in those skills in a formal evaluation. She also explained that most physicians, nurses and medical technicians can be granted credit for most of the skills, especially the ones they use in their day-to-day jobs.

“Even though the MEDIC-X training is primarily focused on those individuals who do not engage in direct patient care on a regular basis, there could be skills a traditional clinician may need a refresher on,” said Kelpis. “For instance, if you are a critical care medical technician who works with an aeromedical evacuation unit, you would be familiar with most of the MEDIC-X skills already compared to a family medicine medical technician that works in a clinic. Those clinical-focused individuals may not have the working knowledge of a ventilator or offloading a patient from a fixed wing aircraft depending on their prior work or deployment experience. With that said, those individuals would need to go through the training of those skills they are unfamiliar with.”