CVTC health care students face real-world scenarios

November 11, 2013

From chippewa.com: “Real-world scenarios challenge health care students” — An alarm sounded and the blue light flashed. Paramedics, nurses and a respiratory therapist sprang into action. Each member of the team had a role to play, and they worked together, communicating constantly through each step of the life-saving procedures.

The scene last week in one of the labs at the Health Education Center at Chippewa Valley Technical College was only a simulation, and the students had worked frequently in the past with the human patient simulators. But there was something vastly different about this exercise.

This time, the students from nursing, respiratory therapy and paramedic technician programs were working with resident physicians from the UW-Health Clinic, all under the observation of professionals and faculty members. And this time simulator patients actually spoke to the students with complaints, questions and realistic reactions through instructors wired to microphones in another room.

Adding a little more flavor to the mix were volunteers playing the parts of family members who provided comfort to their loved ones, but also sometimes got in the way.

The hours-long scene was as close to a real, live critical patient care situation as the students would see prior to their upcoming graduations. In planning the training session, organizers could not find anything similar being done elsewhere.

“This is fairly groundbreaking,” said CVTC respiratory therapist instructor Don Raymond, who helped put together the scenarios. “Multidisciplinary education is becoming more important. It teaches collaborative teamwork, communication, respect across disciplines and professionalism.”

“This is to help all the disciplines understand the roles of team members and the importance of collaboration and communication, with the ultimate goal of improving patient care,” said CVTC associate dean of health Linda Krueger.

Four patient simulators were used, simulating a pediatric patient, a pulmonary embolism, a heart attack, and severe COPD symptoms. Students were used to working with the simulators, but typically they learned to do specific procedures involved in their disciplines, one at a time. The multidisciplinary training involved more than one patient in the unit to care for, with more than one problem, with other health care workers helping, and sometimes with unexpected results.

“Sometimes we operate in separate silos,” said Kim Ernstmeyer, CVTC nursing instructor. “We do our nursing thing, respiratory does its thing … in scenarios like this, we all work together.”

“In true hospital settings, everyone works as a team,” Raymond said.

“This gives them a chance to work together as a team like they will be doing when they graduate,” Krueger said.

Part of the purpose was to get students out of their comfort zones. One scenario involved a “code blue” – a patient going into cardiac arrest. In a fast-paced simulation, a respiratory therapist worked to maintain air flow while a paramedic did chest compressions, and nurses monitored signs and operated the defibrillator. A nurse eventually took over chest compressions for the fatigued paramedic.

The “patient” ultimately died.

“We were really hesitant to have that patient die. We did not want the students to feel they did something wrong or had failed. But sometimes you do everything perfectly and a patient still dies,” Krueger said.

That point was emphasized in a post-exercise debriefing with the students. Ernstmeyer told them that death was decided no matter what they did. Mike Miller, a critical care paramedic with the Eau Claire Fire Department and a CVTC adjunct faculty member, told students dealing with death is part of the job.

“Don’t get down on yourself if someone dies. It happens,” Miller said.

“We want you walking away thinking you did everything you could,” Ernstmeyer added.

Nursing student Sarah Crotty of Alma found herself out of her comfort zone when a person playing a family member tried to wake the deceased person. She had to deliver the news.

“I said, ‘Well, he passed away,’ ” Crotty related. “I’ve never been faced with that before.”

“Acting it out instead of just looking at it in a textbook really puts things into your mind,” said Emily Nelson, a nursing student from Jim Falls. “And not knowing what you are coming into is what is going to happen in the real world.”

The pace of the exercise was new to the students. Respiratory therapy student Kayla Bowe of Bloomer said she learned to “Keep calm, and keep doing what you’re doing.”

All student participants were in their last semester of their CVTC programs.

 

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