European military surgical teams in combat theater: A survey study on deployment preparation and experience

Frederike J.C. Haverkamp*, Thijs T.C.F. Van Dongen, Michael J.R. Edwards, Thomas Boel, Antti Pöyhönen, Edward C.T.H. Tan, Rigo Hoencamp

*Corresponding author for this work

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Introduction: Adequate (predeployment) training of the nowadays highly specialized Western military surgical teams is vital to ensure a broad range of surgical skills to treat combat casualties. This survey study aimed to assess the self-perceived preparedness, training needs, deployment experience, and post-deployment impact of surgical teams deployed with the Danish, Dutch, or Finnish Armed Forces. Study findings may facilitate a customized predeployment training. Methods: A questionnaire was distributed among Danish, Dutch, and Finnish military surgical teams deployed between January 2013 and December 2020 (N = 142). The primary endpoint of self-perceived preparedness ratings, and data on the training needs, deployment experiences, and post-deployment impacts were compared between professions and nations. Results: The respondents comprised 35 surgeons, 25 anesthesiologists, and 39 supporting staff members, with a response rate of 69.7 % (99/142). Self-perceived deployment preparedness was rated with a median of 4.0 (IQR 4.0–4.0; scale: 1 [very unprepared]–5 [more than sufficient]). No differences were found among professions and nations. Skills that surgeons rated below average (median <6.0; scale: 1 [low]–10 [high]) included tropical disease management and maxillofacial, neurological, gynecological, ophthalmic, and nerve repair surgery. The deployment caseload was most often reported as <1 case per week (41/99, 41.4 %). The need for professional psychological help was rated at a median of 1.0 (IQR 1.0–1.0; scale: 1 [not at all]–5 [very much]). Conclusions: Military surgical teams report overall adequate preparedness for deployment. Challenges remain for establishing broadly skilled teams because of a low deployment caseload and ongoing primary specializations. Additional training and exposure were indicated for several specialism-specific skill areas. The need for specific training should be addressed through customized predeployment programs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111320
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

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