Posted on February 14, 2012 by Tia Lalani

Nursing students at the Camrose Husfloen building experienced patient care on both sides of the stretcher!

For a group of nursing students from the University of Alberta, a recent exercise with EMS practitioners in Camrose provided the opportunity to experience what goes into patient care on both sides of the stretcher.

Utilizing the student’s nursing lab at the University’s Camrose site as a mock Emergency Department (ED) space, the exercise carried out a mock disaster that allowed students a chance to see, and attend to patient actors alongside EMS staff, from the point of pick up, to arrival at the ED.

“It was a great chance to teach, and to learn, for everyone involved,” says Andy Postma, EMS Manager for Central and Calgary Zone in Camrose. “We were able to show the nursing students what we do at the scene, on route to the hospital, the details of our role in caring for a patient before they arrive at the hospital where we transfer them into nursing care.

“It helps build a knowledge base and relationships before these students begin practicing. They’ve seen now how we work, how we think, and having that understanding will help them.”

During the exercises, which included a mock explosion scenario and four more typical scenarios EMS providers might see on a regular basis – including a bar fight with injuries, a broken ankle from a basketball game and an amputation from a farming accident – there was plenty of learning to be had.

“It gave the students a chance to pair up with EMS staff and see first-hand what they do, in a real-life scenario,” says Lyndel Evenson,  Program Coordinator for the After-Degree Nursing Program with
University of Alberta.  Nursing students both attended to the mock scenes with EMS staff to watch and assist in the field, as well as carried out the normal duties one would have in the ED when receiving the patients from EMS staff.

“It’s something they need to see,” Evenson adds. “When you’re working in emergency, you don’t see the patient before they arrive, you don’t see the work EMS staff are doing.”

High school drama students from Cornerstone Christian Academy played the part of patients with a variety of injuries, all done up in injury and trauma makeup courtesy of Roxanne Stelmaschuk, an AHS Engagement Advisor with Workplace Health and Safety. Stelmaschuk is also a Registered Nurse and an EMT, as well as an instructor for the Lakeland Paramedic EMS program and a guest lecturer for the U of A nursing program.

Certified in moulage art, Stelmaschuk created a variety of injuries on the actors to help the exercise look and feel as real as possible.

“The makeup really helps make it more real, it evokes emotions and reactions that one would have when seeing such injuries in real life,” she says. “It added to a great hands-on learning experience. It’s not very often the nursing students get to see the other side of the stretcher. This gives them a first-hand look at what EMS staff do on scene, on route in the back of the ambulance and when they arrive.”

The realistic simulation was unlike anything the nursing students had experienced before.

“We’ve done simulations with the equipment we have, using patient simulators, but this kind of exercise, with real patients, brought the interaction between nurse and patient to a different level for the students,” explains Jenna Watson, Lab Coordinator with After-Degree Nursing Program. “It gave them a sense of what it really is like in that situation, working with real patients.

“The EMS staff were great teachers, they took the students under their wing and taught them as much as they good. It was a wonderful learning opportunity.”

Offering such learning exercises began in 2010 through working with Lakeland College Stelmaschuk explains. It’s something both she and Postma hope to see continue locally, if not expanded to other areas.

“I think this is the kind of collaborative learning that should be offered everywhere, to give both nursing students and EMS staff a chance to see both sides of the stretcher,” says Stelmaschuk.  “If nurses can know and understand what role of EMS staff in care is, and what they’re doing, it is in the best interest of patients.”

Postma agrees. “We all learn from it, and we’re better off because of having this experience. The more each side understands of the other’s role in patient care, the better off we all are.”

Reprinted with permission from Alberta Health Services and the University of Alberta Faculty of Nursing

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