Processing of Patients Patients' Care and Comfort
During World War Two the Medical Department was responsible for the health of all military personnel serving in the United States Army. Commissioned or Enlisted personnel must be physically and mentally qualified according to the standards established in the Army Regulations. In war fighting remains a soldier’s primary mission and anything that can be done to keep him and others in fighting condition is part of that mission. It isn’t all luck that a large proportion of casualties return to their units to fight again. It is the result of correct first aid and excellent medical care. In short, the mission of the Medical Department was to “Conserve the Fighting Strength” of the United States Armed Forces.
This small article is meant to represent and illustrate the thorough processing of a patient, just to make sure he was once more ready to serve his country at the peak of his efficiency. No time or trouble was spared to gain this objective. The aim was to provide the patient with the best possible treatment so that he could recover sufficiently to need little medical care other than observation and rehabilitation before returning to duty. If necessary, and depending on the patient’s condition, the most difficult and specialized procedures were performed at the medical installation where he was received.
From the Field to Medical Treatment and Recovery:
Patients’ Care and Comfort, a Medical Department’s Major Job
The general mission was to conserve manpower and by prompt and effective care return casualties to duty or convert them into replacements.
An advance Infantry ¼-ton truck departs for a reconnaissance patrol into enemy-held territory.
Having fallen into an enemy ambush, survivors of the reconnaissance party are being recovered by Litter Bearers pertaining to a Medical Collecting Company.
Together with other patients, the wounded soldier has been safely helped into an Ambulance that will evacuate him to the nearest medical installation. He is in for a bumpy ride, since rivers and hilly terrain have to be crossed prior to reaching the Hospital proper.
General view of the Hospital site and final destination for the patients.
The ¾-ton Ambulance has now reached the Hospital and will deliver its patients to the Receiving Office.
The Hospital’s Medical Staff is ready. Officers, Nurses, and Enlisted Men are on standby for processing and treating any incoming patients.
The patient is lifted out of the Ambulance, prior to being carried to the Receiving Office. The Receiving Office clerk has meanwhile taken some time to check the patient’s Field Medical Record.
Each patient admitted to the Hospital is seen by a Medical Officer and assigned to the proper ward for treatment of his injury or disease. This is usually done in the Receiving Office prior to his transfer to the ward.
The patient’s diagnoses indicated that he was suffering from chest wounds and a fracture of the middle third of the humerus. A Technician of the X-Ray Department takes the appropriate action to identify the exact situation of the broken bone and takes a shot of the patient’s upper arm.
Many patients suffer from loss of blood. Supplies of whole blood of all types are therefore stored in the Hospital’s Blood Bank and are available at a few minutes notice.
After Laboratory cross matching, the blood is found suitable for the patient. A Nurse assisted by a Technician prepares the patient for a transfusion.
In order to correctly assess the patient’s condition, a consultation is necessary. Officers of the Medical and Surgical Services confer at the head of the patient’s bed.
The consultation having determined the treatment necessary, the patient is then operated by one of the Medical Officers and his assistants.
A cast is applied in order to keep the arm rigid while the bone knits.
For wounds received in enemy action, the patient is awarded the Purple Heart Medal, which is usually presented by the Commanding or Executive Officer of the medical installation where he is treated. Some important information has been written on the cast, including data related to the chest wound and the broken bone.
Weeks later, successful treatment permits the patient to leave his bed. He is now an ambulatory patient, but the arm which is healing well, is still protected by a light bandage. Here the patient is given an eye examination at the EENT Clinic.
Bed patients are regularly visited by barbers who do their work in the wards. Here an ambulatory patient visits the barber shop for a proper haircut.
The arm fracture has healed sufficiently to permit some Physical Therapy. Massage and other treatments are given to help restore the injured member to its maximum efficiency.
As a convalescent patient, the man no longer eats in the ward, but visits the Patients’ Mess.
On Sundays, convalescent and other patients may attend religious services in one of the Chapels in the Hospital grounds. Bed patients are regularly visited by members of the Chaplain Corps.
Even though a patient is in Hospital, he need not miss payday. The necessary measures are taken by the Detachment of Patients.
The Hospital’s Post Office affords most of the facilities of a civilian Post Office. Patients’ mail is delivered directly to the wards.
The Hospital’s Post Exchange is like a miniature Department Store, where the patient can buy extra candy, cigarettes, beer, and toilet articles.
The convalescence period affords the patient an opportunity of having a thorough dental check up.
Well along in his period of convalescence, the patient is given a psychological test, in order to assess his overall mental condition, prior to his release from the Hospital.
A convalescing patient visits a friend, a patient in a neighboring ward. Together with other men they play cards.
Tired of the recreational facilities, a patient asked for some light work he can do with the American Red Cross. He’s put in charge of small tools and equipment in the ‘putter shop’.
Hospitals do not release a patient to duty until he has fully recovered. If swimming is available, he can indulge in it or practice some sports unless he just wants to soak up some sunshine.
Completely recovered, the patient is now ready to return to his unit. He is issued the necessary clothing and basic equipment prior to return to duty. In case the patient cannot return to his unit, his next stop would be a Replacement Depot, outside the medical system.
The authors thought it opportune to present the various stages of processing patients at one of the US Army Hospitals. Above shots were taken under field conditions and illustrate the gradual progress achieved during this process. There might be some good suggestions here for some re-enactment photographs…