WEST CHESTER, Oh. - Most of the time, Air Force Capt. Shane House is a teacher. A nurse himself, he instructs other Air Force medical personnel in the delicate art and science of caring for servicemen and women injured in battle. But twice a week for the past six months, House becomes a student again. His classroom is the new gem in the UC Health system, West Chester Hospital.
“Being here allows me to maintain my clinical skills, so it maintains my validity as an instructor,” House said. “I want to talk about present medicine. I don’t want to talk about what we used to do. And that’s what being here allows for me.”
The Air Force has a training initiative called the Center for Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills (CSTARS). For two weeks at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, active-duty nurses, doctors and cardio-pulmonary therapists get classroom instruction. Then for two more weeks, they go to UC Health’s University of Cincinnati Medical Center to learn how to practice trauma medicine in a flight simulator.
But the challenge for the CSTARS program, said Patrick Baker, the chief of nursing at West Chester Hospital, is keeping the instructors' skills sharp, so they can pass along knowledge to the course participants.
“If the instructors just live in the classroom, their skills will start to erode,” Baker said. “Those instructors need 800 hours of training every two years. So, West Chester Hospital leadership collaborated with the instructors on a program to do their training here.”
An ideal location, facility
West Chester Hospital was appealing to the Air Force not just because of its proximity from Wright-Patterson on Interstate 75. Deb Titlebaum, the hospital’s manager for public relations and marketing, says the region’s first new in-patient medical facility in 30 years has rapidly acquired notice for patient care.
And in July, the American College of Surgeons approved the four-year-old hospital as a trauma center, meaning it can care for sicker, more critically injured patients, making West Chester uniquely qualified to show military specialists the latest in trauma care.
Baker understands from experience the importance of teaching the teachers; he retired Dec. 1 as an Air Force lieutenant colonel after 25 years.
“Health care is changing and moving so fast that you need to make sure that when you are an instructor, you’re keeping up with your proficiencies,” he said. “Coming here allows the CSTARS folks to practice evidence-based practice, the latest research, the latest technology, the latest protocols.”
Capt. House and another Air Force nurse are the first two CSTARS instructors to work at West Chester Hospital to fulfill their proficiency requirements on Air Force time; otherwise, House said, he’d have to moonlight at a hospital in addition to his regular job. House started about six months ago, working in the hours around his teaching schedules.
“West Chester’s supporting the military when they’re doing this,” he said. “They’re supporting the safe movement of our critically injured troops down range, and that’s a significant thing.”
House has been a CSTARS instructor for two years; the faculty includes another nurse, a doctor and two cardio-pulmonary technicians. Between 15 and 20 Air Force medical personnel come through the course at a time.
A depth of knowledge
House, 40, comes from a medical family: one sister is a nurse, another is a doctor. He has been in uniform for 14 years and has twice served in Afghanistan; the first time, he missed the birth of his first child.
Sitting in an empty patient room during a recent shift at West Chester Hospital, House said that throughout his nursing career, he has preferred to care for the sickest patients. At West Chester Hospital, he works with in the intensive-care unit.
On this particular day he was working with a ventilator, active drips, blood thinners, and cardiac medications.
"This is valuable because when I go down range, when I go to a deployed location, the skills will come easily to mind. It just gives you weight as an instructor," he said. “Also working in such a nice, new facility with the computerized systems, you get to a point where if you can work with one computerized system, it makes others not so foreign and so difficult.”
House says West Chester Hospital’s status as a new trauma center gives him a depth of knowledge that would be hard to get anywhere else.
“It helps that I’ve flown on the C-130, I’ve flown on the C-17, I’ve flown in the KC-135, I’ve flown in Afghanistan, I’ve flown in Germany, I’ve flown in Iraq, so when a student asks what’s it like to fly there, I can tell them,” House said. “If I’ve done a procedure, a treatment for a patient at West Chester, I can say, 'I just did this last week. Something as simple as starting an IV, that just keeps me better. It gives me confidence, and it builds confidence in the students.”
House comes to work garbed like any other nurse: scrubs, sturdy shoes and a nametag that simply bears his first and last name.
asked me when I first came if I wanted my rank on my badge. I prefer not because I typically don’t want to talk about me,” House says. “Sometimes, if it’s an older gentleman who might have served, it’s a good reference point, a good touchstone to talk about and relate to a person because there’s always common bond of military service. But I typically don’t try to bring it out.”
There have been times when House has come to West Chester Hospital in uniform, “and I got a lot of people, not just employees, but patients and families, just saying thank you for your service. It happened multiple times, and that was nice to be recognized. But then, other times, I just don’t put my rank on my nametag.”