Japanese intern doctor Naoko Uehara, right, instructs local doctor Toshikazu Uema in a basic life-saving skills course at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa.

Japanese intern doctor Naoko Uehara, right, instructs local doctor Toshikazu Uema in a basic life-saving skills course at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa. (Amanda Woodhead / U.S. Navy)

CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — For the first time ever, U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa staff members trained Okinawan medical professionals recently on American- style basic life-saving skills.

Thirteen local medical workers attended the course, which was taught in Japanese by medical interns at the U.S. Naval Hospital. The hospital hosts six Japanese interns each year as part of a residency exchange program.

The interns decided to teach the course after Lt. Cmdr. David P. Murphy, the Internal Medicine and Pulmonary/Critical Care department head, proposed the idea. They prepared both the Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support courses in Japanese. Before the interns could teach the courses, though, they had to first be certified themselves, Murphy said.

“I am astounded at their efforts,” Murphy said. “We now have the ability to teach up to 15 Japanese students a quarter the skill of saving a life at no cost to them. The same class off base can cost up to $600 and often has lengthy wait periods to learn the same subject matter.”

The interns spent three months preparing the courses, according to Yoichi Kato.

“We translated teaching materials, videos and examinations for the course,” intern Kato said. “We were often up until 2 a.m. because that was the only time we could all get together.”

The students in the course included doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians and other medical professionals from throughout Okinawa.

“It is good to have doctors teaching the course through evidence-based medicine,” said Rui Arakawa, a nurse from Chubu Hospital in Gushikawa City. “I took this class once before (off base) and while the material is the same, the presentation is different. The other students provide me with exposure to people from various medical backgrounds: doctors, nurses, fire department staff.”

Murphy said while the students taking the course are trained medical personnel, Japan doesn’t offer quite the same approach.

“It’s not as detailed and systematic and evidence-based as the U.S. program,” Murphy said. He added that he knows of only one other institution that offers American-sponsored training, and the wait list there is several months long and the course is expensive.

During the Basic Life Support, or BLS, training, the students learned cardiopulmonary resuscitation and proper technique for treating choking victims, putting what they learned to work on mannequins. They also heard a lecture on choking and watched a video on the practical applications of their skills. The course ended with an hour-long written exam.

The eight-hour course not only qualifies the students in BLS but also prepares them for more advanced courses, including Advanced Cardiac Life Support.

Murphy said all who completed the BLS training will be invited back for the two-day advanced course.

The hospital plans to provide the courses in Japanese once a quarter. Murphy said the training not only gives local medical personnel life-saving skills, but also gives U.S. personnel more experts to call upon if off-base care is needed.

“This was (the U.S.) Naval Hospital’s way of reaching out to the local community to not only teach indispensable skills, but to give something back for all the Okinawans have done for us,” he said. “It’s a win-win situation.”

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