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TJC EMS and paramedic students gain hands-on training in ambulance simulator

With Tyler Junior College’s new ambulance simulator, emergency medical services and paramedic students can prepare for a variety of lifesaving scenarios before they ever touch a patient.

“It replicates what kind of environment they’ll be working in, from the emergency situation to even how the equipment and supplies in the ambulance are set up,” said Rory Prue, TJC EMS professions department chair and professor.

“We can simulate any type of ambulance call as well as teach them how to work as a team with a limited number of players in a very limited amount of space.”

Prue said a bonus to using the simulator vs. an actual ambulance is that one side of the simulator is open, which gives students an unobstructed view inside while others are going through the exercises.

Lessons start out very basic, with students first learning how to safely lift and carry a stretcher holding a mannequin or student volunteer.

“We begin moving and lifting as early as Day 2 of the program,” Prue said. “It’s important to learn how to move the patient safely in and out of the ambulance, and how to do it so that you don’t injure your back or yourself in the process.”

Next come the possible emergency scenarios.

“When a call comes, EMTs and paramedics must be ready for any situation,” he said. “In the training, we’ll go from minor events all the way up to what we would call a ‘mega-code situation,’ meaning the patient is in critical condition and they are working all types of treatment on the patient in the back of the ambulance.”

Time management is also a vital aspect of the simulator training.

“It’s common practice to teach students, for instance, that in a car accident or a gunshot wound situation, we should only spend 10 minutes on-scene before transporting to the hospital,” he said. 

Once the students have a patient in the back of the ambulance, the instructors simulate various response times to the hospital, depending on how far out their simulated situation occurs.

For example, he said, if the emergency call is in Tyler, it’s an average five-minute ride to the hospital.

“From there, it’s just a matter of whatever the instructor is giving them and telling them, so they realize how much time they have to work with,” he said. “Or, let’s say they’re out in Van and they want to come to ETMC with the patient because they need to go to a trauma center. That’s a 35- to 40-minute drive to the hospital. So, I may say once in they’re in there, ‘OK, you’re 40 minutes out,’ and they will go through their exercise.”

The simulator has been a big help in giving a realistic feel and sense of urgency to what the students are learning in class, he said.

“It’s the next step between the classroom and being out in the field,” Prue said. “The students really like it.”

As part of their training, students are also required to complete several clinical rotations, which consist of ride-alongs on real ambulance calls.

“One of the things we tell them as they’re preparing for these clinicals where they ride along is it’s basically an informal job interview,” he said. “Ambulance personnel will be checking to see if they’re ready and if they’re a good fit.

“We have a great relationship with the local ambulance services, and our graduates have had a 100-percent job-placement rate for the last six years. Job placement is our goal.”

Prue adds that EMTs and paramedics are afforded a variety of job opportunities besides ambulance services.

He said, “Even though they might not be interested in working on an ambulance, there are all these other avenues: Industries hire them for first aid, and hospitals hire them as techs in emergency rooms and even on the hospital floors. They could also get hired in some doctors’ offices and stand-alone ER facilities.

“There’s a huge demand and it just continues to grow.”

For more information, go to www.tjc.edu/EMS.

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