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AACC students train for real-life emergencies


Valuable hands-on learning for emergency care students

Recently, the fourth floor of Anne Arundel Community College’s Florestano building was transformed into a chaotic staging scene for patients in need of urgent care and a hospital emergency room as emergency medical technician (EMT) and nursing students were placed in “real-life emergency” situations.

Among the situations they faced were: treating a woman who had fallen out of a tree while hunting (after having a little too much to drink), an elderly man in respiratory distress, a gunshot victim, a psychiatric patient with post-traumatic stress disorder running through the halls and a teenager having a seizure.

A team of AACC nursing and emergency medicine faculty set up these “real-life” scenarios using patient simulators and human volunteers to test skills of AACC’s EMT and nursing students in their final year of study before they entered the workforce.

These simulations are just one example of the valuable hands-on experiences AACC provides it students. Simulations for emergency care students allow students to practice communications skills and their skills taking care of patients in a safe environment where they can make mistakes and learn from them.  

“They all have worked at clinical sites, but in those situations, they are under the supervision of someone who can step in if needed,” says Myra Dennis, associate professor of nursing. “In this simulation, they are the ones who are charged with handling the situation.”

 The patient simulators play a key part, both in training during regular class times and in this exercise. These are computer-driven mannequins controlled by a computer in a room adjacent to the lab used as an emergency room. The patient simulators, which are hooked up to monitors by the patients’ bedsides as they would be in a hospital, are sophisticated machines that can talk and simulate breathing, heart beats and a pulse. When a nurse or technician provides treatment, the patient simulators react just as a human would, so it’s easy to see if a patient is improving or if the treatment was incorrect.

The simulation tries to make conditions as realistic as possible. The EMT students have to allow for unresponsive victims who have to be carefully restrained before moving. The ER has beds numbered as they are in real ERs and someone assigning cases. Human volunteers who can move are assigned parts that add a little drama, such as the inebriated hunter who fell out of a tree and broke her leg who tries to sneak her gun and some more beer into the ER and the patient with a mental health issue who resists treatment.

 “I try to combine all my worst patients in the character I play,” said Cathy Jones, assistant professor of nursing, who portrays the hunter. “They definitely will see people like me when they are working.”

The simulation lasts between two and three hours. When it’s over, the faculty team and the students discuss what went right and what steps needed improvement.

“There is no substitute for the real thing, but this gives them an idea of what it’s like and the confidence that they have learned the skills to handle it,” Dennis said.

Be sure to check out a video of the simulation, as well as articles that ran in The Baltimore Sun and The Capital in "Related Links."