Fire department trains with Simulation Center
In a small, cramped room, three members of the Rochester Fire Department quickly sized up the situation. An EpiPen lay discarded on a table next to a wheezing high-schooler. The school nurse frantically searched her paperwork for a parent’s number.
Two of the firefighters pulled out medical equipment as the third tried to calm the nurse.
“We have all the equipment, we’re going to take care of him,” Larry Mueller told her.
He turned to the student, whose wheezing was worsening by the minute.
“You’ve had Albuterol before? It’s just something to clear your lungs out a little,” he said. “It might make you anxious, but it’ll clear your lungs out.”
Over Mueller’s radio, the dispatcher told the team that Gold Cross had been delayed.
Periodically, yelling echoed through the wall next to the gasping teen’s head from the next room. It sounded like someone had been stabbed.
Someone — sort of — had.
It was day two of Rochester Fire Department training at the Mayo Clinic Simulation Center and Limb Lab.
The department partnered with Mayo Clinic last year to add stakes to their normal education efforts, Capt. Brett Knapp said.
Getting hands-on, repetitive training for the types of calls the Fire Department goes on, is helpful for the whole staff, he said. So teams of three — the minimum number that can answer a call — cycled between the anaphylaxis simulation and another that presented the teams with a stabbing victim — a homeless man bleeding heavily from his thigh and underarm.
Karyn Hintermeister, the nurse, and Colin Duncan, the “high school student,” were “standardized patients” with the Simulation Center — actors who were given a script for the encounters and mimed symptoms accordingly.
Each encounter was over in a few minutes.
Chief Erik Propotnik watched the training from a viewing room, where both teams could be seen quickly assessing and treating their patients.
“Traditionally, we’d do these in one of the classrooms at the fire station,” he said. “But it adds a sense of realism, gets everyone’s heart rates up a little bit.”
The fire department chose the scenarios to rehearse based on previous training and changes in best practice, he said.
The scenarios also afforded the firefighters a chance to try something they rarely encountered. In the case of the stabbing simulation, the firefighters had to treat the bleeding, screaming victim, while taking care not to “muddle up” the elements of the crime scene — a bloody knife and footprint that a real-life police department would need intact.
In the other scenario, anaphylaxis isn’t exactly common, but the fire department also wanted to present a situation where responders needed to assess which medical intervention would be best for a young adult.
“How did you get his lungs to sound like that?” Mueller asked as the team filed into the debrief room after stabilizing their patient.
Josh Guard, a firefighter and EMS instructor, led the group through what they’d done right (administering the right medicine quickly, keeping the nurse from slowing down treatment), and what they could have improved (getting a final, post-treatment reading of vitals).
“Treat your patient, not your monitor,” Guard concluded.