April 21, 2015: the unthinkable happens. A train has derailed in a small Pennsylvania mining town. Seven train workers and eighteen towns people have been injured as a result of the derailment and subsequent fire. Fortunately, no fatalities have been reported. First responders, including paramedics, firefighters, and police, rush to the scene in order to treat injuries and administer an emergency evacuation plan.
The nightmare scenario plays out in shocking clarity – but this time, it's only a drill.
A group of dedicated caregivers, emergency personnel, police, and volunteers have come together to take part in this large-scale medical simulation training event. Its purpose is to hone participants' communication and care delivery skills, assess emergency responders' reaction times, and demonstrate that although disasters can and do happen, there's no reason a community can't prepare itself with a little help from simulation training.
Medical simulation has been a mainstay in the world of clinical education for decades. Before that, simulation training was used by the military and aeronautics fields to educate, assess, and certify learners who dealt with high stakes situations. In all cases, simulation allows learners to practice and hone skills within a safe environment – at no point are they or their peers in any danger of causing or receiving injury.
Simulations such as our Pennsylvania train derailment scenariooperate in a similar way. First responders, paramedics, firefighters, police officers, and even members of the community can work together to train and understand individual and group requirements, duties, and actions. Simulation training is also helpful for determining where changes and improvements might be made to each component of the emergency event response plan.
In order to enhance realism, an actual train car was outfitted for the "derailment" with special effects such as smoke and noise machines. In addition, lifelike injury makeup (or Moulage) was applied to the simulated victims' faces and limbs – that way, the caregivers had specific details to address when they saw their patients and delivered treatment. Such details served to suspend participants' sense of disbelief: although they were involved in a simulation event, the skills they developed and refinedwere quite real.
What did the first responders and clinical participants have to say about the event?
Monica Gutierrez, EMT: "The simulation training event was incredible! I've been working as a first responder for five years, and the train derailment set up was not only believable, but it helped me understand the importance of communication between everyone on the scene. There's no room for panic."
Sergeant Tom Riddle, County Police: "I hope I never have to see such a scene ever again. But if I do, I know I'm now better prepared to handle it. Everyone worked together as a team."
Sam Crowley, Volunteer: "As a theatre student, I was grateful for the opportunity to volunteer for the emergency event. The role of the simulated disaster victim was necessary for maintaining believability, and it was great to work with the emergency crew—and help them train!"
About The Author:
The author of the article has extensive experience in the field of Medical Simulation Training and Nursing Simulation Training.
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