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EXCHANGE: Medical students learn to handle emergencies

August 30, 2018

CHATHAM, Ill. (AP) — Clara was by herself when her water broke.

She was 39 weeks pregnant on a solo camping trip as the contractions started. Hikers passing by her cabin heard her screams and called 911. Shortly afterward, a team of four emergency medical residents were dispatched to help Clara deliver her baby.

Unfortunately, there were complications. The baby’s shoulders were stuck during delivery, and when he was finally out, he wasn’t breathing.

“Is my baby OK?” Clara screamed. “Is it my fault? Did I kill my baby?”

The doctors on site soothed her. No, it wasn’t her fault. Her baby was alive. They were attending to him right then.

Twenty minutes later, Clara and her baby were stabilized and safely transported to the hospital.

She went on to give birth four more times that morning.

That’s because the cabin was in the middle of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Dean David Griffen’s property in Chatham. Clara was, in reality, just a training mannequin. The person screaming for Clara was facilitating the scenario. And the whole scene was a training exercise.

Clara’s emergency delivery was one of six simulated scenarios part of Emergency Medicine Wars, an event put on by the medical school’s EM residents. Five teams of four residents participated in Thursday’s evening.

“This is a chance for residents to practice and further their skills in managing patients in a more austere environment,” said Tyler Fulks, the chief resident of emergency medicine at the medical school. He and fellow resident Caleb Pingel ran the event.

At every station, a faculty member stood as judge with a list of critical actions, which are things that must take place to properly treat the patients at each station. For example, at one station a female patient suffered from pesticide poisoning, and the critical actions included cleaning the patient off and making sure they didn’t carry any traces of pesticide.

As the scenario plays out, the faculty member at each station checks off each critical action taken. At the end of the event, the team with the most critical actions wins EM Wars.

The winning team receives a trophy spray painted gold. And bragging rights, of course.

This year, the winning team included Michael Kim, Joel Gieswein, Dominic Phemister and Maria Russ.

Four other scenarios were spread out across Griffen’s property. In one clearing, there was a mass casualty event at a 1980s rock concert with an active shooter. Dozens of people were killed or injured, and the residents had to perform emergency triage.

The event also made use of a barn that served as a pretend cave in which three victims were trapped. The residents had to perform a rescue and tend to their injuries.

In another clearing, a tent served as a makeshift airplane, in which a passenger experienced chest pains. The residents had to treat him while he had a heart attack in the middle of the aircraft.

The last scenario took place on a footpath surrounded by trees, where a hunter fell out of a tree and dangled a few feet off the ground by his harness. The residents had to carefully bring him down and treat his injuries.

Apparently, that last scenario happens a lot more often than people think, especially during deer season.

“We try and keep it as real as possible, just so they get the most out of it,” Fulks said.

SIU School of Medicine partnered with several other organizations to make the scenarios of EM Wars as lifelike as possible. The event included support from Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation, the Springfield Fire Department, Memorial Emergency Management Services and Life Star Ambulance Company.

This is the fourth year for the EM Wars. The emergency medicine residents wanted to come up with an unconventional team building exercise, and it offered them an opportunity to get out of the hospital.

The event is run entirely by the residents, and every year the scenarios are different. Fulks said coming up with the scenarios can be a long process, but the most important part is making sure they were reality based.

“Everything they’re experiencing today is practical. They may not see it every single day, but there’s a good chance at least someone here will experience one of these situations in their entire career span,” Fulks said. “This is just a good opportunity to get their learning in so the first time they’re doing it in real life is not the first time.”

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Source: The (Springfield) State Journal-Register, https://bit.ly/2wagD21

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com

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