By Samantha Johnson
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
There was lots of excitement amongst paramedic students at Medicine Hat College on April 3 when HALO landed on the college grounds for an emergency training scenario. Students weren’t aware until the last minute that HALO was going to be involved and the enthusiasm level increased significantly when the helicopter came into view.
Scott Mullin, program co-ordinator of the paramedic program, stated, “Part of their training is to do the scenario, the activity, of mass casualty incident. With the partnership with HALO, we were able to bring them in for this landing, but we thought just for the pure excitement, the engagement, for the students, we wanted to keep that a secret for them until it was actually called in.”
Despite the cold, there were smiles and all the students remained enthusiastic. Two simulations were planned and students all got to go back inside to warm up and have a debrief between the two. In the debrief, they discussed the positives and what could have been improved upon, and during the second scenario worked on all the things they talked about.
“It’s important,” said Mullin. “It’s serious learning, but there needs to be some fun aspects to the learning at times for that engagement. We strive to have that experiential learning as much as possible to get them prepared for their careers, providing that simulated reality as best we can.”
Andreanna Gizen, first-year primary care paramedic student, was selected as landing zone person and felt the experience put her in the mindset of preparing to work in the real world. Her job was to ensure the landing zone was in the right place with no trees or debris in the way. She was also responsible for setting up the pylons and sending signals to the helicopter pilot if they are good to land or will have to abort.
When HALO landed, it sent up a snow shower and Gizen was in the maximum impact zone.
“I didn’t expect it, but then I didn’t expect the helicopter to come today, so it’s one of the best experiences I could ever ask for.”
Gillian Allegro, second-year advanced care paramedic student, was involved in the patient transfer into HALO. Once the patient got in the helicopter, the students were timed. The simulation had to be completed in under 12 minutes as daylight was running short. Allegro was pleased she managed to intubate and prepare the patient within that time.
The simulation involved a few first-year students working with Allegro. As she was the one attending the call, it was her job to ensure the other students were aware of what needed to be done. Thus, the call involved Allegro using her communication skills along with ensuring the patient was intubated within the time limit and administered the appropriate medication.
“It’s quite a bit smaller and there is more you have to be cautious of. Making sure everyone is staying out of the way and working in a new environment was definitely different, but pretty cool to get that experience,” explained Allegro. “We didn’t know about it. We found out when we were standing out here waiting and saw the helicopter coming in.”