This wasn’t your father or mother’s medical simulator.
A green and blue trailer arrived in David City on Sept. 13 carrying state-of-the-art equipment to help train everyone from medical staff to first responders in small towns across the state.
“This is kind of a big deal,” said Doug Dekker, simulation program liaison for Simulation In Motion-Nebraska, or SIM-NE. The program was created by the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Described as a partnership for emergency patient care, SIM-NE is equipped with two settings, an emergency room and an ambulance compartment. The 44-foot-long trailer expands outward 15 feet when the sides are expanded.
On Sept. 13, students from David City and Aquinas filed into the emergency room compartment and Dekker introduced them to METIman, the patient simulator on the table.
“My belly hurts,” the patient said, bringing out a few puzzled looks.
Dekker explained that Brian Monaghan, manager of the SIM-NE program, was in the midsection of the trailer, using a computer to make the patient speak.
Students put on a stethoscope and listened to the patient’s heartbeat, used a pen light to check on the pupils for dilation and felt the patient’s pulse. Those were just a few of the real-life situations of the patient that could be altered by a few instructions in the control room.
Dekker polled the students on whether they were considering health care or emergency services careers, and he broadened the field. Pulling up the patient’s ‘skin’ on his abdomen, he revealed the wiring and pumps that create the breathing and other functions of the patient. Keeping tomorrow’s high-tech simulators in operation will require computer technicians, he said.
Moving to the rear of the truck, the students met Fidelis Lucina, a female paitent simulator on a gurney with her infant on her chest. Fidelis, whose chest moved with each breath, surprised some students as her eyes moved when they walked in. Fidelis can simulate the process of childbirth for emergency medical technicians.
Monaghan, who has been in emergency services for years, told the students that they would need education in communications, mathematics and science to prepare for the highly technical field.
Miscalculating a dose of drugs for a patient, for example, could be the difference between life and death.
Dekker said that the SIM-NE truck had a full day in David City. After the students completed the morning tours, training was provided for hospital emergency room staff at Butler County Health Care Center and the emergency medical technicians of the David City Volunteer Fire Department. It was the first time SIM-NE was used in such a collaborative effort.
The SIM-NE truck helps small town hospitals and rescue squads get training that they would otherwise need to travel hundreds of miles for. Leaving town for training also means that the personnel is not available for a day or more.
The David City visit got a big boost when local businessman Mike Jones, a member of the UNMC Board of Counselors, asked to put Butler County high on the list.
“What a great advocate for our program,” Dekker said, recalling how Jones had worked locally to help organize the visit. “Before we had the trucks even,” Dekker said.
Carol Busch, the hospital's clinical education coordinator, said the process took a few months to organize with the schools, SIM-NE and Jones insurance.
"What it entailed was involving the fire department, hospital and schools to present to everyone what was most important for them to learn," Busch said. "We also had a scenario with the nurses and the fire department. Scenerios we planned for nursing and the fire department which included trauma, myocardial infarction, an "ob' patient and stroke. The combination of the fire department and nurses reviewed a burn patient and a trauma patient."
The purpose of the school involvement was to introduce students to the positions available in the hospital atmosphere and show them what the SIMNE Truck involved, Busch said. "This was an exciting opportunity for them and for us."
So far, SIM-NE has been a big hit. There are four trucks that cost $1 million each -- $500,000 for the custom truck and $500,000 for the simulation rooms and patients. SIM-NE trucks are based in Lincoln, Kearney, Scottsbluff and Norfolk.
“It has been fantastic,” Dekker said of the response from hospitals and emergency personnel across the state. “They say, ‘When can you guys come back.’ They were ready for this.”
Dekker said that nursing colleges and other training centers have simulation training, but “there’s not anything else out here like this.”
Aside from the staff training, Butler County Health Care Center took the opportunity to provide the students with a glimpse of medical careers in the hospital’s conference room.
Each department of the hospital had representatives on hand to answer student questions about their jobs, education and other elements of medical professions.
Dekker pointed out that he had other connections to David City. The late Sheriff Mark Hecker, he said, was one of his best friends.