Mock Trauma Tests Skills of Paramedic Students

 UAMS paramedic students work on a high tech manikin, while another simulated patient is loaded into an ambulance during a training exercise.
UAMS paramedic students work on a high tech manikin, while another simulated patient is loaded into an ambulance during a training exercise.
Paramedic students assess a simulated patient "wounded" in a shooting.
Paramedic students assess a simulated patient "wounded" in a shooting.

Oct. 3, 2012 | Victims of a mock campus shooting tested the skills of students in the UAMS paramedic program recently to assess, prioritize and provide emergency medical treatment.

The semi-annual field internship exercise staged Sept. 24 for paramedic students by the Department of Emergency Medical Sciences in the UAMS College of Health Professions included emergency medical technician (EMT) students pretending to be victims, two high fidelity manikins provided and operated by the UAMS Simulation Center that could emulate vital signs and other reactions and two static manikins. Injuries were simulated with stage makeup. The net result was that students were immersed in a realistic simulation in which to treat and triage multiple patients.

Danny Bercher, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Emergency Medical Services, said the 24 paramedic students were supposed to assess the scene, request additional resources, triage the patients, treat and then prepare the patients for ambulance transport to receiving facilities. The nearby UAMS Simulation Center served as the exercise emergency department.

At the Simulation Center, , the students rolled the patients in on stretchers, delivering an oral report, then documented the event— just as they would in a real situation.

"We thought the exercise went really well," Bercher said later. "The students took ownership of their actions. Some recognized they made some mistakes while others noted some of their peers who performed very well.”

"We did a debriefing at the end of the day. The students were unanimous that these types of exercises were highly valued and helpful in their education to become professional paramedics."

The variety of injuries in the mock shooting was intended to push the students to practice making quick decisions about which were most critical and needed attention first. The students also were expected to immediately realize that the number of victims required them to request additional EMS units.

One woman, with an oozing gunshot wound on her arm showed signs of shock. Nearby, a motionless manikin represented a victim killed in the incident who paramedic students should recognize as someone they could not help while others with less serious injuries could be saved, Bercher said.

The high fidelity, wireless manikin, controlled from a laptop by Jacob Johnston from the UAMS Simulation Center, moaned and attracted the attention of the students. On the manikin, the students were able to assess then perform emergency procedures to help the patient breathe.

The high fidelity manikin has a simulated pulse and breathing controlled by Johnston that can be changed in response to the student's actions. The students intubated the patient — inserting a breathing tube down the patient's throat to provide oxygen — then carefully put him on a stretcher for transport.

Bercher said that in addition to the multiple gunshot wound scenario, the students practiced advanced life support skills at a cardiac station, a basic life support/automatic external defibrillator (AED) simulation, and an ambulance equipment familiarization/stretcher orientation station.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job market for EMTs and paramedics is very good and expected to keep getting better with faster than average job growth. According to one allied health website, opportunities for employment are expected to increase due to the difficulty of providing adequate training to volunteers, along with an increasing elderly population that is more likely to need emergency medical services.

Entry-level paramedics can expect salaries that range between $28,000 and $40,000 depending on the state and type of EMS service in which they work. After several years of experience, paramedics will routinely earn between $40,000 and $60,000 working for a fire department, state agency, hospital, or private ambulance service.

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