Royal Thai Air Force nurses team up with 59th MDW for U.S. healthcare collaboration

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kelsey Martinez

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO- LACKLAND, Texas-- During July and August 2023, the 59th Medical Wing hosted a team of five Royal Thai Air Force nurses from Bhumibol Adulyadej Hospital; known for delivering primary care services to RTAF personnel and the wider community. The nurses were immersed in the U.S. Air Force’s comprehensive healthcare system, global medical readiness initiatives, research, innovation, and international relations. This unique initiative fostered knowledge exchange between RTAF nurses and their American peers.

Capt. Baudelia De Santiago, an operating room nurse at the 59th Medical Wing, played a pivotal role in facilitating the Thai nurses' visit. Her close collaboration with leadership at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Center (WHASC) and Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) ensured that the visiting nurses could tailor their experiences to their unique learning objectives.

"International collaborations serve as a merging point for diverse perspectives within the field of healthcare,” said De Santiago. “This often propels innovative solutions, fostering a more comprehensive grasp of healthcare."

Central to their visit was inpatient shadowing, providing the RTAF nurses with valuable first-hand experience in the patient care practices of the 59th MDW.

“Medical care holds universal significance, and it was eye-opening to witness that,” said De Santiago. “Despite our language differences, patient safety remained our utmost priority as healthcare professionals.”

Udomlak Sripend, Royal Thai Air Force, wing commander, is one of the nurses who participated in the medical collaboration. Sripend has over 23 years of nursing experience in the RFAT and is currently a psychiatric and mental health nurse in the Bhumibol Adulyadej hospital nursing department as well as Directorate of Medical Services, RTAF.

“This had the most important opportunity of my life to visit 59th Medical wing,” said Sripend. “I gained knowledge, guidelines, and experience to develop better methods for patient care and military medicine.” 

Furthermore, Lt. Col. Carmanita Davis, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit flight commander and 959th Inpatient Operations Squadron clinical nurse officer in charge emphasized the importance of international collaboration in advancing healthcare standards.

"Given the extensive resources at BAMC, I collaborated with the Department of Education and Training to pinpoint clinical areas conducive to offering shadowing opportunities,” said Davis. 

The nurses’ engagement went beyond observation, including opportunities to participate in nurse training courses, thus enhancing their skills through practical learning.

"Mentors were appointed by each unit and flight leader, with an emphasis on encouraging creativity in designing the learning experience.” said Davis. "For instance, the nurses had the opportunity to learn from our Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT), the Operating Room (OR) team, the Labor and Delivery/NICU team, and collaborate with various departments, each offering insights into different procedures."
This international healthcare exchange not only solidifies connections between healthcare professionals but also nurtures a spirit of collaboration and mutual learning. 

“Collaborative efforts can lead to resource optimization, advancing healthcare, building a more prepared and globally connected medical force,” said Davis. “These missions help us to continue delivering high-quality care, especially during emergencies and humanitarian missions.”

In today's interconnected world, the sharing of medical resources, expertise, and best practices is essential for improving healthcare outcomes. 

“Learning from (the RTAF nurses) was an enjoyable experience and narrowed in on the importance of taking time to connect with people,” expressed De Santiago. “Their rich culture was a true blessing, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to build this connection.”