Ambulance Simulators Help Iowa EMTs

PEOSTA, Iowa – As an experienced paramedic and firefighter, Rhonda Healey knows there is no substitute for actually being out in the field.

Still, she said, the new ambulance simulators at Northeast Iowa Community College come as close as possible to replicating the real-life experience.

“These simulators are a great way to show the students what it’s like to be in an ambulance and to be responding to an actual emergency,” said Healey, who has been an emergency medical services instructor at NICC for four years.

NICC campuses in Calmar and Peosta installed new ambulance simulators in classrooms over the summer.

Health educators began using them this fall.

The simulators weigh about 10,000 pounds each, with the dimensions of real ambulances used by fire departments and EMS responders.

NICC’s EMS Program Director Sam Janecke said he believes the new educational tool takes classroom instruction to a whole new level.

“The actual experience of being in the back of an ambulance – that is something we haven’t been able to simulate in the classroom or in a lab setting before,” he said.

Ambulance simulators at both campuses were purchased and installed for a total of about $80,000. The simulators were paid for through Bridges2Healthcare grant program at NICC.

Janecke said students enrolled in emergency medical technician and paramedic classes will use them. There are 44 students in those classes in Peosta and about 50 in Calmar.

For participating students, the benefits are abundant.

Ambulance simulators feature functional emergency lights, a cot that can be moved and adjusted, an air compressor that simulates oxygen capabilities and a built-in suction device. In addition, the shelves are stocked with everything that would be found in a real ambulance, ranging from bandages to medications.

Within the simulators, students perform a range of procedures on mannequins, from checking vitals to administering IVs.

All of these actions must be carried out in the cramped confines that exist in a real ambulance.

“I think that being able to operate in a confined space like that is a big challenge of working inside an ambulance. (The simulators) really prepare students for that,” said Sandy Neyen, clinical coordinator of NICC’s paramedic program.

Centralia resident Andrew Koetz, 20, is one of the students enrolled in the EMS class this fall.

Koetz has been a volunteer firefighter with the Centralia/Peosta Fire Department for nearly three years, and he said the ambulance simulator is an accurate representation of the real thing.

“It’s set up the same. It’s stocked the same. I think this will be a big benefit to the students,” he said.

In addition to training students, the ambulance simulator also can be used by service providers throughout the tri-state area.

Training officers with the Dubuque Fire Department already looked at the simulator labs and are contemplating incorporating them into their training, officials said. The Calmar campus, meanwhile, is planning to host educational seminars this fall.

September 9, 2014

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