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Medical Reservists Bring NHS Expertise to NATO Exercise

“It’s changed me. I don’t let things get to me the way they used to because now I know what pressure feels like."

A specialist reservist unit based in York have been proving their medical expertise in NATO’s Exercise Saber Strike in Poland.

Exercise Saber Strike involves nineteen countries and 18,000 troops in total spread across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. It's the first time personnel from 306 Hospital Support Medical Regiment have taken part.

Warning: video contains graphic simulations of battlefield injuries.

The US specifically requested the unit's participation this year - as the regiment provides specialisms which simply aren't present elsewhere in the military. These areas include things like neurosurgery, midwifery, gynaecology and pediatrics. 

Corporal Emma Mackie, a midwife for 306 Hospital Support Medical Regiment, said: “When we have this experience it gives us the chance and the confidence to lead more.

“In hospitals, a lot of people see small things that don’t need to be dramas become dramas. When we’ve been in these sorts of situations we take on a completely different point of view.

“It’s changed me. I don’t let things get to me the way they used to because now I know what pressure feels like.”

The reservists were stationed in Poland dealing with simulated mass casualty scenarios – known as MASCALs.

In one scenario, five patients and a dog were admitted to the field hospital with serious injuries.

The 'dog' (known as Max) – made of cardboard and plastic cups – had an important part to play in the simulation, because in the US army, dogs outrank their handlers and are treated with equal importance. The UK and Polish had to learn some canine medicine quickly. 

One of the main challenges the UK, US and Polish troops faced was overcoming language barriers to make sure they worked seamlessly together. Even the US and UK troops found they often used different names for the same drug.

The reservists will soon return home after completing eight mass casualty scenarios.