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Florida Paramedics, Firefighters Practice On Sophisticated Mannequins

FORT LAUDERDALE -- They breathe, blink and bleed. They can be stuck with needles, bandaged and spoken to. They answer back.

They are the simulated mannequins city fire-rescue paramedics use during training scenarios. The five mannequins have been at Florida Atlantic University's simulation center since October 2006 and also are used by medical students.

The Boca Raton City Council last year approved an agreement with Florida Atlantic University for city firefighters to go through medical simulation training. The school developed an advanced medical simulation training program at its Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science. To pay for the training, the city agreed to transfer to the school a surplus 1999 ambulance in return for $50,000 of tuition credit.

During a recent training at FAU, advanced life support paramedics simulated bringing a man back from the dead after a heart attack and also rushed to the scene of a victim who was laid out and bleeding after a car accident. "It's as close to real life as we can get," said Lt. Patrick Bayne, an 11-year veteran of the city's fire-rescue. "Any time we can keep it more toward real life, the training is going to improve."

Mark Goldstein, director of the Simulation Center and Technology, controls the vital signs of the 6-feet tall, 90-pound mannequins from a remote computer.

"When we give the proper medication with the proper dosage there's a correct rhythm change and a heart rate change," fire-rescue spokesman Frank Correggio said. "It's in real time, and also, it's videotaped. Now you can see what you did."

Traditional training is done with an instructor standing by a static mannequin telling the student whether the patient responds to the medication.

Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue also uses a mannequin for paramedics, and Palm Beach Community College uses one for students.

"They are very close in nature to what medical students would use," said Vicki Sheppard, county fire-rescue division chief of training and safety. "It could throw up on you if you wanted it to."

Neither Delray Beach nor Boynton Beach fire-rescue departments use mannequins as sophisticated as FAU's.

"It's one of those things that you would like to have if money was no object," Delray Beach Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief Russ Accardi said. However, "we're prepared for all types of EMS situations to give people some of the most advanced medical treatment that's available."

Boynton Beach Fire-Rescue spokesman Steve Lewis said it would be helpful if the mannequins were mobile.

"We don't have the resources to send people down there to work on it," he said. "We have your typical CPR mannequins for doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compressions."

The first mannequin at FAU cost $95,000, and the four others $65,000 each, Goldstein said.

"We're trying to hone our skills," Bayne said. He added that the goal is to get a patient from an accident scene to the ambulance in 10 minutes.

"If we can exude confidence toward the patients, it's going to go toward patient comfort. We want them to look at us as an extension of the emergency room."

Jerome Burdi can be reached at jjburdi@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6531.

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