A Call for Innovation: Reflective Practices and Clinical Curricula of US Army Special Operations Forces Medics

J Spec Oper Med. 2014 Winter;14(4):70-80. doi: 10.55460/9VLP-C9MS.


Background: Special Operations Forces (SOF) medics have written and published numerous practice reflections that intricately describe their practice environments, clinical dilemmas, and suggestions for teaching and practice. The lack of translation of SOF medics experiential evidence to their curriculum has created a gap in evidence-based curriculum development. This study analyzed SOF medics learning and practice patterns and compared it to the evidence in the interdisciplinary clinical literature. After framing the problem, the literature was reviewed to determine appropriate tools by which perceptions and attitudes toward reflection-centered curricula could be measured.

Methods: A recognizable practice reflection was extracted from the published SOF clinical literature and presented in writing to self-identified SOF medics and medic instructors via a descriptive crossover design, to ensure possible biases were mitigated. To measure SOF medics perceptions of reflection-based curricula, the Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure survey instrument was used, as it has validated psychometric properties and is used worldwide.

Results: SOF medics averaged scores of perceptions of their medic education indicated positive but not completely statistically significant preferences toward reflection-based curricula over traditional curriculum.

Keywords: Special Operations, medics, reflective practice, curricula BACKGROUND Special Operations Forces (SOF) medics practice in environments that are violent, austere, clandestine, and far removed from definitive hospital facilities. What was true almost 20 years ago?". . . academic demands of [Special Forces medic training] are roughly equivalent to those of an upper-level undergraduate curriculum in science or perhaps to those of first year medical school"?is even more challenging today. During this study, medics, physicians, and educators within the SOF medical community publicly and privately (ergo, names were redacted) expressed the need for curricular changes to teach SOF medics about the worst of clinical scenarios, such as situations in which evacuation of critically injured Soldiers to higher echelons of care is not possible or is prolonged, due to combat engagements or other complications. These experts consistently describe the need for curriculum derived from experienced medics practices, to guide force-wide knowledge acquisition and augment student medics professional development. Given the investigator?s clinical familiarity with SOF medics practice and evidence, senior, enlisted SOF medics and SOF medic instructors proposed that a doctoral-prepared nurse, whose clinical specialty was trauma, could spearhead academic focus and publication on the experiences and curriculum of SOF medics.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Curriculum*
  • Emergency Medical Technicians / education*
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel / education*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Warfare