High-tech dummies train first responders

BAR HARBOR —Paramedics and nurses here participated in a training event last month using life-sized mannequins called “human patient simulators.”

The patient simulators look a little like the dummies often used in CPR trainings, but they are much more sophisticated. The program is owned by Maine EMS and operated by Lifeflight of Maine.

“We can replicate almost every response that the human person can produce,” Kyle Santosuosso of Lifeflight said. “Their eyes will open and close, pupils change size, their breathing patterns change, we can change their heart rhythms, even make them bleed from certain sites.”

Paramedics can feel a pulse in several places on the mannequin, take blood pressure, administer IV medication, and more.

The idea, Santosuosso said, is to give first responders a chance to practice unusual, high risk situations where a patient’s condition is likely to deteriorate quickly. “If you have practiced, even if it’s a simulation, you’re less likely to get nervous and make mistakes.”

Santosuosso and fellow trainer Jodie Gregory gave the paramedics feedback on their treatment decisions after they’ve finished each scenario.

“They did great. We had a lot of good interactions and got some good teaching points out of the scenarios today,” he said.

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First responders practice life-saving techniques on a human patient simulator at the Bar Harbor Fire Station recently. The training is offered by Lifeflight of Maine. PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

“It’s the next best thing to actual patients,” John Lennon, Assistant Fire Chief, said. The Bar Harbor Fire Department (BHFD) hosted the day-long training including personnel from Acadia National Park, Northeast Harbor Ambulance, the Cranberry Isles Rescue Service, Mount Desert Island Hospital and other organizations.

Lifeflight operates helicopter ambulances, usually transporting patients from a community hospital – such as Mount Desert Island Hospital – to a larger medical center that offers more advanced or specialized care. Most patients are taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor or Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. Those hospitals are where the state’s two LifeFlight helicopters are based.

“Part of what we’re doing with the simulators at Lifeflight is orienting new people to our flight programs,” Santosuosso said. “We use this to introduce paramedics and nurses to what we do and how our medicine is a little bit different in a transport environment. That can help the patient with a better continuity of care.”

The training can also help introduce new protocols for patient care, he said.

Between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015, Lifeflight flew 47 missions to Bar Harbor, most of them during the summer. BHFD personnel set up a landing zone at the town athletic fields in the summer, and sometimes at the former ferry terminal on Route 3 in the winter.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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