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News | Dec. 8, 2022

‘Train as you fight’- Surgical suit brings realistic training to military operations

By Michelle Cornell

With readiness of the medical force a top-priority, Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune often collaborates with entities across Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune to train for real-life medical emergencies. In October, 2nd Medical Battalion tapped NMCCL’s Staff Education and Training Team for use of the medical center’s Human Worn Partial Task Surgical Simulator, or “cut suit”.

“2nd Medical Battalion requested the suit because it allows us a more realistic training scenario for our surgeons and Corpsmen,” said U.S. Navy Commander Erik Brink, chief medical office for the battalion. “The cut suit is a prosthesis worn by a member; it straps onto the torso to simulate a chest and abdominal surgical area with bleeding capabilities and very realistic organs.”

On October 19, 2022, medical personnel were able to “operate” on the suit as part of a simulated mass casualty event in tandem with “Exercise Carolina Response”, a joint exercise between 2nd Marine Logistics Group, Combat Logistics Battalion 24, and 2nd Medical Battalion. Brink says that the variety of injuries capable of being simulated by the suit are vital to training trauma surgeons and staff.

“The suit is capable of simulating real-world scenarios,” said Brink. “Penetrating trauma from gun-shot wounds, blunt-force trauma from a car accident or collapsed building are a few of the injuries that the suit can simulate.”

The suit was purchased from Strategic Operations in 2021 for NMCCL’s Staff Education and Training Program. Petty Officer Second Class Leland Hannah, one of three surgical cut suit trainers at NMCCL, says the company also provided the training and certification to staff, as it is recommended that the suit be used only with a certified trainer present.

“Safety is the biggest priority when using the cut suit, because people are wearing the suit and [surgeons] are actually performing surgery on it,” said Hannah. “The soft scenarios [like blood pressure and heart rate] are set and given by the lead doctor, but bleeding and organ repair are hard scenarios controlled by the person performing the procedure.”

According to Brink, the suit is necessary to provide a more realistic trauma orientation for new surgeons arriving to NMCCL and medical units across the installation.

“Since most new doctors arriving to NMCCL do not have a trauma background, we felt it was important for them to know what to expect and to be ready,” said Brink. “There is never a way to know what type of injuries come through the door, that’s why training is the scaffolding for skills and readiness.”

The technological design of the surgical suit provides the ability to reuse the apparatus indefinitely. Advanced surgical expansion kits are available to provide more training opportunities such as in Tactical Combat Casualty Care, a course that instructs corpsmen how to administer life-saving trauma care on the battlefield.

“During TCCC, Corpsmen must learn and demonstrate they have the ability to do emergent procedures which allow them to stabilize a patient enough to get them back to formal care,” said Brink. “The suit allows simulation of many procedures Corpsmen may have to perform in combat and trauma environments like needle decompressions, IV applications, tourniquets, Stop the Bleed applications, and wound packing.”

NMCCL’s SEAT Office plans to incorporate the surgical suit into more mass casualty simulations and TCCC programming in the coming year.
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