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Concept and evaluation of the German War Surgery Course – Einsatzchirurgie-Kurs der Bundeswehr
  1. David A Back1,2,
  2. K Waldmann1,
  3. T Hauer1,
  4. N Huschitt1,
  5. MW Bowyer3,
  6. U Wesemann4,
  7. A Lieber1,5 and
  8. C Willy5
  1. 1Department of General, Visceral and Thoracic Surgery, Bundeswehr Hospital Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  2. 2Dieter Scheffner Center for Medical Education and Educational Research, Charité—Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  3. 3Division of Trauma and Combat Surgery, Department of Surgery, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  4. 4Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychotraumatology, Bundeswehr Hospital Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  5. 5Department of Traumatology and Orthopaedics, Septic and Reconstructive Surgery, Bundeswehr Hospital Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Maj David Alexander Back, Department of General, Visceral and Thoracic Surgery, Bundeswehrkrankenhaus Berlin, Scharnhorststrasse 13, Berlin 10115, Germany; david.back{at}, david.alexander.back{at}


Introduction Military surgeons must be prepared to care for severe and complex life-threatening injuries rarely seen in the civilian setting. Typical civilian training and practice do not provide adequate exposure to the broad set of surgical skills required. The German Bundeswehr Medical Service has developed and refined the War Surgery Course (WSC) to meet this training gap. This article describes the recent experience with this readiness curriculum.

Methods Run annually since 1998, WSC consists nowadays of 5 days with 20 theoretical modules. Four sessions with standardised practical skills training use a live tissue porcine model, and the recently added cadaver-based Advanced Surgical Skills for Exposure in Trauma course. Sixteen military surgeons who participated in the WSC in January 2016 completed a survey of their self-rated readiness for 114 predefined emergency skills before and after completion, and provided an overall evaluation of the course.

Results Self-assessed readiness improved significantly over baseline for all areas covered in both the practical skills and theoretical knowledge portions of the WSC curriculum. Additionally, all participants rated the course as important and universally recommended it to other military surgeons preparing for missions.

Conclusions The WSC course format was well received and perceived by learners as a valuable readiness platform. Ongoing evaluation of this course will enable data-driven evolution to ensure a maximum learning benefit for participants. With the increasing multinational nature of modern military missions, surgeons’ training should follow international standards. Continuing evolution of military surgical training courses should further encourage the sharing and adoption of best educational practices.

  • Military surgery
  • Medical service
  • War surgery
  • Training
  • Trauma
  • Education
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  • AL and CW share the last authorship.

  • Contributors DAB, KW, TH, NH, MWB, AL and CW made substantial contributions to the conception and design of the study. DAB, KW, TH, NH and AL performed the acquisition of data. All authors analysed and interpreted the data and were involved in drafting the manuscript. DAB, MWB, AL and CW revised it critically. All authors read and approved the final manuscript. All authors agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved. AL and DAB are responsible for the overall content as guarantors.

  • Funding The annual War Surgery Course is organised and funded by the German Bundeswehr Joint Medical Service (Sanitätsdienst der Bundeswehr).

  • Disclaimer The views and opinions stated in this article are entirely those of the authors and are not meant to represent the official views or policies of either the German Bundeswehr Joint Medical Service, or the US Department of Defense.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Human cadavers were obtained from the body donation programme of the medical faculty of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, with appropriate written consent.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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