U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jose Maldonado, noncommissioned officer in charge, Medical Maintenance, Tripler Army Medical Center, traveled to Mongolia recently as part of a Nursing and Medical Logistics Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) between the militaries of the United States and Mongolia.
He said he expected interaction with other logistics service members, but what he didn’t expect was to be reunited with a former student.
Senior Sgt. Javkhlan “Jay” Purevdorj, a member of the Mongolia Armed Forces (MAF), was Maldonado’s student when Jay attended the Department of Defense Biomedical Equipment Maintenance Technician School in 2012 in San Antonio, Texas.
“It’s a full circle. You teach them and you explain to them the importance of their job…his education and his level for fixing equipment has grown so much,” said Maldonado, who served as an instructor for the SMEE.
The two reunited, unexpectedly, during the SMEE, which took place June 5 to 9 at the Military Medical Center of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The medical logistics portion of the SMEE focused on biomedical equipment management.
It was presented for biomedical equipment engineers, technicians, administrative staff and equipment operators, and it included courses on biomedical equipment management, preventive maintenance and operator maintenance.
“You could really see how interested they were in learning,” said Leading Sgt. Bayasgalan Olonbayar, Military Medical Center of Mongolia, about the biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) who participated in the course. “This course was very effective; I hope we continue to improve in this area.”
A hands-on exchange approach using various pieces of test measurement and diagnostic equipment allowed for a more realistic training environment.
“That existing relationship between the BMETs relaxed the atmosphere in the shop and enabled a group of technicians with a wide spectrum of capabilities to overcome language barriers and dig into the training agenda,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Elizabeth Gum, chief of Logistics, Tripler Army Medical Center, who was part of the U.S. team.
While the BMETs learned hands-on skills and technical capabilities, Gum said she also hoped they enhanced their level of confidence as advisors in their facilities.
“I want them to be the experts in their hospital that BMETs are in ours. I want them to be the trusted agents of the command and clinical staff,” she said. “They’re so much more than technicians. They are a part of the bigger strategic operations for the organization.”
After all, Gum said, patient care begins with logistics. Even a technician needs to understand how a piece of equipment impacts the health and safety of a patient.
“We explained the importance of anatomy and physiology of the body, and we explained that if settings are incorrect on a piece of equipment, it can harm a patient,” Maldonado said.
Understanding the importance of patient safety is one of the key takeaways the medical logistics team wanted to convey to the MAF BMETs and biomedical engineers.
“That’s why we have all these analyzers we’re showing them. That’s why we’re teaching the operators – the end user – how to properly use and maintain equipment, because it all comes down to patient safety,” he said.
As part of the exchange, members of the medical logistics team from the U.S. Army learned about the equipment currently in use at the MAF.
“In some ways, they are limited, but they are really resourceful, and they figure things out,” Maldonado said.
Gum added that the exchange gives U.S. service members a broader perspective of other facilities and the strengths and weakness of their systems.
“All of the (U.S.) BMETs here have deployed, so they’ve seen different degrees of technology at medical facilities. They’ve seen a tent with aid bags all the way to fully capable hardstand buildings. This is just another exposure for the degree of technology,” Gum said.
Other members and instructors of the medical logistics team representing the U.S. included U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ramon Pagan, Chief, Equipment Management Branch, Tripler Army Medical Center; and U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. John Whitley, superintendent, Medical Logistics, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and Air Force Pacific BMET manager.
The U.S. and Mongolia Nursing and Medical Logistics SMEE has taken place since 2010. It is one example of U.S. and Mongolian military cooperation. This year, 2017, represents the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two counties.
It is this form of medical diplomacy that drives positive change in an increasingly global atmosphere. Medical diplomacy through global health engagements such as the SMEE support the Chief of Staff of the Army’s top priority: Readiness. This mission is accomplished while working jointly with partners in Regional Health Command-Pacific, U.S Army Pacific (USARPAC) and Pacific Command (PACOM).
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