Penny Moon and Joan Field drove two and a half hours from the town of Spray over to Bend on Thursday morning for an experience worth the travel.
They are two of four volunteer EMS workers that hold down the fort in their town of 150 people, which sits 82 miles from the nearest hospital.
That’s why they jumped on the chance to train with Central Oregon Community college’s brand new, state-of-the art simulation equipment.
“We’re very, very rural and we don’t get the opportunity to get extensive training that was offered today,” Moon said. “We do a lot of Zoom meetings and Zoom classes, and it’s just not the same to be able to put your hands on a newborn infant and feel the heart rate.”
“The mannequins that we have are really basic,” added Field. “And so we’re doing these airway maneuvers on mannequins that are very old and doing the best we can. But there’s not reaction. There’s nothing giving us feedback. And so this is this is pretty neat.”
COCC’s high-tech dummies mimic lifelike reactions in scenarios like childbirth (with a plastic baby inside), blocked airways or other intense traumas. They all have moving joints and eyes that blink. The pregnant dummy called out things like ‘I’m having a contraction!’ and ‘please give me an epidural!’ during the training.
“The equipment gives feedback the way that a human would give feedback as closely as possible, that voice comes through,” said David Schappe, the EMS Programs Director at COCC. “You can do all the procedures on the equipment. You get the feedback through our monitoring equipment from it, and everything looks as close as we can make it to what would actually happen.”
Schappe explained that the equipment took months to procure.
“It had to be built in Florida, then flown out here,” he said. “We had to have a trainer come in for days to help us learn how to utilize the equipment…access to this type of simulation is rare.”
He believes COCC is the only institution with this level of medical simulation technology in the state, and certainly in Central Oregon.
“The opportunity to simulate that as closely as possible hopefully means that the level of anxiety when that happens is going to be much lower, because we all know the frequent exposure to a stimulus decreases our response to that stimulus, and it allows people to function at a higher level when it’s necessary,” Schappe said.
The equipment is the result of $350,000 in grants, and a partnership with St. Charles, OHSU and Cascades East Area Health Education Center.
“Our goal is to just be sort of the center for our region to try and extend this like high level training out to people who can’t get it,” Schappe said. “I mean, we have areas in this state who have no EMS responders or maybe one EMS responder, and we need to get people to serve those communities. And by offering training that’s grant-funded, people don’t have to pay.”
It’s a goal they’re already reaching on day one.
“Our transport from Spray to Prineville is an hour and a half,” Field said. “If we bring in a helicopter, 45 minutes. So, the very best that we can hope for is that 45 minutes of having ALS land. So, the more training like this that we can get, the better we’re going to be able to take care of our patients.”
Moon and Field hope that the mobile nature of the equipment will allow COCC staff to bring it out to Spray and other rural areas that could use the training.
COCC’s EMS program staff plans to host trainings with the simulation equipment once every quarter from here on out, with the next training most likely during the third week of June.