AF Reserve relays resilience to local medical residents

  • Published
  • By Maj. Ashley Walker
  • 913th Airlift Group

Lt. Col. Charlotte Appleton, 913th Aerospace Medicine Squadron commander, shared best practices and discussed resiliency to anesthesiology residents during weekly education presentations on Dec. 10, 2019, at University of Arkansas Medical School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Over 50 faculty and residents from UAMS and Arkansas Children’s Hospital viewed the presentation, which discussed the high stress and patient trauma of the medical field that could lead to providers experiencing second victim syndrome. Appleton addressed the Air Force’s emphasis on developing resiliency across the ranks and identified the similar perfectionist cultures of medical and military professions.

“Second victim syndrome is the emotional reaction a healthcare provider may experience due to patient related traumatic events. The complex healthcare environment means there’s only a matter of time before we all face second victim syndrome,” said Appleton. “It’s not unique to the medical profession.”

With the Air Force and Air Force Reserve facing increasing numbers of suicides, the Air Force has put into motion programs and processes to encourage help seeking behaviors and connectedness.

“As we notice our coworkers struggling, the best thing we can do is be present,” Appleton said. “You don’t need the right words to show you care. Be available, regardless of whether the coworker decides to open up to you or not. That alone will help remove the sense of isolation.”

Appleton encouraged the audience to look for ways to create a work culture that accepts failure while still focusing on prevention and harm reduction.

“There are very strong correlations between our professions regarding high stress and unpredictability,” said Dr. Riley Lide, UAMS anesthesiologist and associate program director. “We are incredibly fortunate have Charlotte as our presenter to address this serious topic from her experience in both the medical and military perspective."

 Appleton is a practicing, board-certified doctor of internal medicine and medical director in her civilian status at the Nacogdoches Medical Center, Texas. She has completed four deployments during her active duty and reserve career. While deployed to Iraq, she provided expeditionary trauma care and evacuated wounded warriors. In 2011, she trained Afghan Army doctors in intensive care and trauma medicine, increasing Afghan capability to care for their own wounded warriors. Additionally, she served as the first NATO subject matter expert on Afghanistan medical operations. Lastly, she deployed as a flight surgeon support the combat search and rescue squadron based out of Turkey.

“I truly enjoyed sharing my experiences, both medical and military,” said Appleton. “Normalizing the emotional response to traumatic events will hopefully foster help seeking behavior we need to see in both professions.”