ST. LOUIS - Mercy and the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command recently signed a first-of-its-kind training affiliation agreement giving Air Force reservists access to vital training at 12 Mercy hospitals.
The deal offers Air Force Reserve medics from across the U.S. the unique opportunity to train at Mercy hospitals including in Arkansas: Fort Smith and Rogers; in Missouri: Crystal City, Joplin, Springfield, St. Louis, Troy and Washington; and in Oklahoma: Ada, Ardmore and Oklahoma City.
In the past two decades, government hospitals have transitioned to outpatient clinic spaces, leaving acute care to civilian hospitals. This shift left a gap in important medical training needed to keep military personnel, especially reservists, ready for deployment.
“Unlike on active duty, where a service member does the same job every day, reservists live dual lives – serving as teachers, construction workers, truck drivers – and don’t get the hands-on training and opportunities that active-duty airmen would receive,” said Lt. Col. Ed Hubbell, 932nd Aeromedical Staging Squadron officer-in-charge of consolidated training and Mercy Technology Services vice president of business partnerships. “While this distinction brings new perspectives, skills and ideas, it also means reservists may not always get the training or experience they need to be effective in a deployed setting.”
The unique agreement with Mercy creates training opportunities for the Air Force reservists and gives extra hands-on assistance for co-workers in hospitals and clinics, which in turn improves the quality of care provided to the community and to military personnel in the deployed environment.
Air Force reservists have trained at Mercy since 2003, beginning at Mercy Hospital St. Louis and expanding in scope and locations through the years. Leaders from both organizations recognize the value of the training and have worked to make it more widely available.
“Having the agreement in place with Mercy truly opens the doors of opportunity for our citizen airmen to gain the training and real-world experience they desperately need,” said Col. Karen Steiner, Air Force Reserve Command chief nurse, who recently traveled to St. Louis for a site visit. “They work in the emergency department, the intensive care units and various other areas building skills that will help them be effective when deployed.”
Mercy provides certification courses the service members need to provide care. During their training rotations, reservists work side by side with Mercy co-workers delivering patient care in almost every clinical setting and augment support staff as they hone their skills.
“This collaboration benefits our troops, our co-workers and our patients. Many of our own co-workers are also reservists, including Ed Hubbell, who helped shepherd the program from its infancy at Mercy St. Louis, and it’s important we support them,” said Steve Mackin, Mercy president and chief executive officer. “I saw firsthand the impact it makes. We’re able to serve those who serve our country by providing training in a cost-effective manner for the Air Force Reserve and at the same time, our caregivers get an extra set of hands to help provide quality patient care. It’s a winning combination for everyone involved.”
To become a medical technician, Air Force reservists go through approximately nine months of technical school, learning skills needed in the battlefield. Senior Airman Hailey Boyer with the 932nd Airlift Wing located at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, is a legal assistant in her civilian life who concluded her Air Force technical schooling more than a year ago.
“If called to active duty, our unit would be deployed in a red zone and be tasked with building a field hospital from the ground up,” Boyer explained. “We would care for patients in the field, keeping them stable until they could be transported to a larger hospital.”
She recently finished her refresher training at Mercy Hospital South in St. Louis and was happy to be able to do it only 20 minutes from Scott Air Force Base.
“I hadn’t touched a patient since technical school, so I was a little nervous I wouldn’t be prepared if I was deployed,” Boyer said. “Training at Mercy South in the ER was a great opportunity, where the doctors let us get hands-on in real situations. All the skills I learned in 2021 came back to me. The training provided is truly mission essential.”