Craven Community College (Craven CC) recently invested in an ambulance simulator to help train students and better prepare them for careers in emergency medical services (EMS).
The simulator, called the SimRig, serves as practical training for students of all levels and a realistic refresher for those who are already in the field. It is used for several programs under the college’s Workforce Development department, including Medical Responder, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Advanced EMT, Paramedic and continuing education classes.
“We decided to get it because a lot of our students don’t see the back of the truck until they start doing their ride time,” said Jon Stephens, EMS program coordinator and instructor. “This gets them acclimated to being in a truck.”
The SimRig is built to precisely mimic a real ambulance but is much more cost effective, with no operational maintenance required. It has functioning suction and simulated oxygen, action control station and flip-up bumper. The back door and bumper are built to the actual specifications of road-ready ambulances to allow students to efficiently practice loading and unloading stretchers and perform life-saving procedures in a limited space. Replicating these challenges helps students adapt to the limitations and work accordingly.
Studies have shown that hands-on simulation training can help enhance performance and reduce errors in real life scenarios. Training on the SimRig improves proficiency and accuracy so students are prepared for their first day on the job. Students are required to have 48 hours of ride time on an actual ambulance. While the college does have a real ambulance for students to achieve their ride hours, the simulator helps prepare them.
A common stressor for EMS students who complete the program is that they are not prepared for the ride time. Many experience extreme anxiety when they first get in a real ambulance because they don’t know what to do. Unfortunately, this can cause them to freeze up or make careless errors. The SimRig helps prevent situations like these by building confidence and skill levels.
It also enables instructors to observe students to make sure they are implementing techniques correctly and efficiently. The back of the SimRig is open, and a side door allows instructors and students to be firsthand observers of emergency scenarios as they occur. Additionally, it has a four-camera high-definition system that feeds into a digital video recorder.
“We can record students and show them what they did right, what they did wrong, what they need to improve on, instead of just saying ‘you did that wrong,’” said Stephens.
Student Matthew Barnett, who is an advanced EMT at CarolinaEast Medical Center, has been taking the paramedic course as supplemental training to obtain a higher level of credentials for his career. Although he is already an EMS professional, the coursework at Craven CC has benefited him greatly.
“My experience with Craven CC’s EMS program has been great,” he said. “I have learned and relearned a lot of valuable information relating to my job in EMS that has helped me to provide better care for my patients.”
Of course, no ambulance scenario is complete without a patient. Craven CC EMS students utilize the SimMan, an advanced patient simulator that can enact real-life situations. The computer-controlled mannequin can display neurological and physiological symptoms, giving students practice with skills that will carry over to the working environment.
“He talks, he bleeds, he has a blood pressure, he has pulse rates—the whole nine,” said Stephens. “He has pupils you can take out and replace with different ones to match whatever scenario we’re doing.”
The SimMan can even talk through prompts. The realistic, hands-on training enables students to get a feel for different techniques while developing muscle memory and confidence in their abilities. Stephens strongly believes that the simulation training will prepare students to start a career or excel at current ones.
“I have only used the new simulator a couple of times, but I can say that it is a great asset to the EMS program,” said Barnett. “You will never be able to fully simulate what it is like in the back of an ambulance helping a patient, but the new simulator is the next closest thing and could help to teach students the valuable skills needed to do this job.”
Stephens gives multiple tours each year to middle school students visiting from local schools. This helps generate interest in the EMS fields and demonstrates career options students may not have considered. The arrival of the SimRig has created more interest in the EMS programs.
“The last one I did was the first time with the simulator, and they got a kick out of it,” said Stephens. “A lot of them didn’t want to leave when it was time to go.”
For anyone interested in EMS, fee-based classes are available to interested citizens, businesses, and organizations. Courses are available to rescue squads, ambulance services, fire departments and law enforcement agencies. CPR and EMT re-certification classes are also offered. Classes are held on the New Bern campus, online and throughout the county.
To request a tour of the SimRig, contact Stephens at 252-672-4698 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To register or get more information, contact the Craven CC WFD department at 252-638-7248 or email@example.com. More information and online registration is available at www.cravencc.edu/workforcedevelopment/emt.
This article was originally published in the New Bern Sun Journal on Oct. 23, 2019.