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Vt. health care students put to the test with lifelike simulators

Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 5:14 PM EDT
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WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Future health care workers Friday got a taste of real-world emergency situations with the help of lifelike simulators.

Jimmy the mannequin has had a rough day. He’s had one cardiac arrest and is scheduled for another. It’s all to help health care Vermont Technical College students who are about to be out in the real world understand what to do when they’re responding to a real medical emergency.

“It’s all about patient safety, making sure people are prepared and ready,” said the program’s director, Michelle Stearns.

The sophisticated life-like patient was put through the paces for code blue simulations -- when patients go into cardiac arrest -- to allow students to practice before having to face a real patient. “We are really trying to get folks into health care across the state and to meet their needs so that they can come through our programs and be ready to go out into the workforce so they are actually working where they live,” Stearns said.

There were nursing, respiratory therapy, paramedicine, and radiologic technology students all working together to figure out how to save Jimmy.

“Trauma situations are really intense at times and practicing how to talk to people, especially doctors, when you are coming from not talking to doctors a lot -- it definitely is helpful in being confident in your own skills,” said Ally Corrow, a radiologic technology student.

Some of the students will be graduating in a couple of weeks and were grateful to have the backstop of a simulation to practice. “Before you actually get to the real world and trying to save a life, you need to have confidence, and the simulation lab gives you confidence. You can make mistakes here and that’s fine, you are not making anyone’s life disappear,” said Baki Fattahi, a paramedic student.

Back in 2020, Vermont needed 1,800 nurses, according to Annette Macias-Hoag with the UVM Medical Center. Now she says that number is upwards of 2,600. The shortage is due to several factors including the number of faculty available to teach, nurses leaving the profession during the pandemic, and available nurses to train once a new nurse takes over.

Macias-Hoag says they are working to create a pipeline with schools to hopefully get more local students into nursing. “Knowing what the community needs are is extremely important and those nurses that grow up in the area and the system are really able to identify with the patient population in a better way if they are from the area and from the region,” she said.

And the students Friday said they want to stay local also. “There’s definitely a shortage in the health care field. We need respiratory therapists and we need more nurses and I like to work in my community and help out,” said Kasey Long.

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