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Uniformed Services University Adds COVID-19 Training to Curriculum

A crowd of doctors gathering, all are in medical masks.
By Sharon Holland

Medical students and advanced practice nursing students at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences are now required to complete COVID-19 training as part of their USU coursework.  

The practical online offering, arguably the first of its kind in the nation’s health sciences universities, was initially developed to prepare students who were graduated six weeks early to make them available to the Military Health System in support of the fight against COVID-19. Two USU faculty members, Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Eric Meyer and Army Major (Dr.) Grigory Charny proposed the framework to ensure that the new graduates were ready to safely and effectively join healthcare teams.

The course, “Student COVID-19 Training,” contains content divided into six capability areas that every health professions student should master, including:  
  • Appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to ensure student safety
  • Basics of COVID-19, to include the rapid identification of respiratory failure, which is the leading cause of COVID-19 related mortality
  • Effective Patient Communication to reduce the anxiety and panic of patients seeking help
  • Patient Screening using the most up-to-date tools
  • Obtaining Vitals, including the use of mechanically-assisted vital signs devices
  • Medical Emergency Response, founded on previous Basic Life Support, Advanced Life Support, and Advanced Trauma Life Support training
“During this time of national crisis, we want to ensure that our students and faculty have the proper support and resources to serve and stay safe,” said Dr. Art Kellermann, dean of USU’s F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine.  “Although their education and training is comprehensive, we always emphasize that all military health officers must be able to swiftly adapt to new challenges. This material ensures that when our students interact with patients and their families – whether through telehealth or face-to-face encounters in military treatment facilities, they are ready to do so with knowledge and skill.”

All of the university’s medical school Class of 2020 students completed the training prior to graduating, and the rest of the medical students have until April 15 to finish.  

COVID-19 training, including proper use of personal protective equipment masks, is now part of the Uniformed
Services University curriculum. (Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sara Eshleman)

A team of faculty and 2020 graduates from USU’s Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing (GSN) further modified the program to better fit the nursing community.  The modified version contains the following content areas:
  • Hospital and primary care testing algorithms
  • Stopping the Spread and Best Practices on PPE 
  • Taking Care of Yourself and Your Family 
  • A mindfulness app and strategies from the American Psychiatric Nurses Association
  • Nurse-specific medical emergency training
  • Skills as a registered nurse 
All of the students who recently graduated, as well as those currently in the program, have completed the training, as have many GSN clinical faculty. 

"The GSN faculty, in collaboration with the School of Medicine faculty, developed this training so that our students had updated information to maintain their safety and the safety of their patients in managing this disease. Safety is a priority. The training is also important because it addresses self-care and resiliency strategies that offer help to care for the caregivers."

Kellermann said the School of Medicine is currently working on a more comprehensive version to be available as continuing medical education for practicing physicians in the Military Health System and mobilized reservists.  The nursing modules have already been shared with the Federal Nursing Service Chiefs and nurses aboard the USNS Comfort.

A doctor in protective gear, photo taken from the shoulders down.
Uniformed Services University medical and advanced practice nursing students now must complete a required
COVID-19 training course to ensure safety and preparedness in patient care settings. (Photo by Senior Airman
Wilfredo Acosa)