USM Assistant Professor Provides Expertise During Military Training Exercise

Tue 23/11/2021 – 13:16 | By: Van Arnold

Dr. Stephanie K. Parks is an esteemed Assistant Professor in the Nursing Anesthesia Program at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). She is also a long-time member of the United States Army Reserve, obtaining the rank of major.

Her expertise and experience in both fields led Parks to be selected as a participant in the Mayo Multidisciplinary Simulation Center (MMSC) training exercise held earlier this month in Rochester, Minnesota. About 50 soldiers from 10 different military units across the country took part in the rigorous program featuring complex combat scenarios.

“The quality of care in an Army field hospital depends on the successful communication of multidisciplinary teams,” Parks said. “This exercise focused on developing a unified team with a shared mental model. Using the TeamSTEPPS communication approach, a military team of experts has become a team of experts.

Parks notes that the key principles of TeamSTEPPS include communication, leadership, situation, monitoring and mutual support. Through the efforts and support of the Mayo Clinic and Army Reserve Medical Soldiers, Exercise MMSC provided realistic training and immediate feedback using state-of-the-art equipment.

Participants were selected for the exercise based on the specialty of the military occupation. One component of the training included an operating room capable of performing two surgeries simultaneously. Hence the need for two anesthetists and four surgeons.

Due to the nature of military operations in combat zones, the types of injuries and their severity mimicked those often seen in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of the injuries simulated at the Mayo High Fidelity Simulation Center were gunshot wounds, improvised explosive devices, and extremity amputations.

Dr. Stephanie K. Parks near a helicopter“At one point in the scenario, one of our patients was a military working dog,” Parks said. “The military is providing medical training on how to care for all soldiers, including the military working dog.”

A nursing degree was not enough to satisfy Parks after graduating from USM. The Gulfport, Mississippi native decided to join the US military with the goal of becoming a pilot, specifically a helicopter pilot.

“I had a bachelor’s degree in nursing and the military gave me the opportunity to pilot Blackhawks for 10 years until I became an army nurse anesthetist,” Parks said. “I have so much love and pride for our country, and wanted to show my support by volunteering for the military in 1999. I feel honored to serve and provide medical care to the American soldier. The exercises held at the Mayo Multidisciplinary Simulation Center reinforces the dedication to our practice and the quality of care we provide in support of our military force.

Parks was deployed to Kosovo as a Blackhawk pilot, then to Kuwait and Afghanistan as a nurse anesthetist. She was also activated in 2020 to be part of a military task force on urban augmentation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she worked at Temple University during the COVID pandemic. She still flies a helicopter as part of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department.

Parks points out that the training she received at MMSC has taught her powerful techniques that she plans to incorporate into simulation exercises in the nurse’s anesthesia program at the USM.

Dr. Stephanie K. Parks in the cockpit of a helicopter“As the simulation coordinator in the nurses anesthesia program, we structure simulation scenarios that include cognitive, affective and psychomotor learning domains,” she said. “By adapting the new communication strategies taught at MMSC, we are improving our cognitive domain of learning. When you offer mutual support and listen intently to a patient’s report of care, we enhance our affective domain of learning.

Parks stressed that the communication skills learned during the exercise will allow him to improve practice from the combat zone to the classroom.

“Whether it’s in an advanced resuscitation surgical team in Afghanistan or a modern nursing simulation center in Asbury Hall, the importance of teamwork and communication in the midst of chaos can make the difference life, ”Park said.

To learn more about the Nursing Anesthesia Program at USM, call 601.266.5462 or visit:

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Richard V. Johnson