10/10/2002 12:00 AM
Charlie is not an official TEEX instructor, but he has traveled to over 30 states and helped train more than 1,800 first responders and emergency personnel to recognize the presence of chemical and biological agents and treat victims of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) incidents.
Charlie is a human patient simulator, the latest in simulation technology for the medical field and the closest thing to a real patient.
For three years, Charlie has been assisting with the TEEX/NERRTC Emergency Medical Services Operations and Planning for WMD Course. This course is offered to jurisdictions by the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center (NERRTC) as part of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium (NDPC) efforts to enhance a jurisdiction’s WMD incident response capabilities. Funding for the course is provided by the Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP) of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The three-day course provides EMS personnel and medical professionals with the skills needed to ensure proper patient triage, treatment and transportation in the event of exposure to biological, nuclear, incendiary, chemical and explosive weapons. Participants also learn decontamination procedures and techniques for protecting themselves and limiting cross-contamination.
“The simulator has the ability to accurately provide students with a human patient that exhibits signs and symptoms of chemical and biological agent exposure,” said program supervisor John Rinard. “This is a valuable training opportunity that provides course participants with cognitive and didactic skills necessary to ensure a positive patient outcome, all in a controlled environment, and most importantly before the incident. After practicing with the simulator, participants will be better prepared to handle the after effects of a weapons of mass destruction situation.”
Developed by Medical Education Technologies Inc., the human patient simulator can be programmed with realistic, clinical signs and symptoms for participants to identify, diagnose and treat. Using Charlie, students observe pulse, heart rate, temperature, breathing, urinary output, papillary changes, tongue swelling and other diagnostic information displayed on the monitors.
Charlie responds to medications administered by course participants and will improve or decline in condition based on the participant’s choice of drug as well as dosage provided. “With the simulator it’s all right for a participant to make a mistake,” Rinard said. “They can practice procedures with no risk to a real person. This enhances participants’ critical thinking skills and helps them make real-time decisions about treating a patient. Charlie’s value to the team is not only as a patient for the participants, but his capabilities stimulate valuable discussion among the participants.”
In addition to the hands-on course, participants must successfully complete two on-line courses, which cover WMD/terrorism awareness and basic EMS concepts and techniques.
Rinard said the program has grown significantly since the terrorist attacks of September 2001 both because of increased demand for the course and because Congress is providing more funding for this training. “Before 9/11, most communities had not thought about how to handle WMD incidents,” he added. “Three years ago, the class was offered in 24 locations. This year, we will offer the training to 80 jurisdictions, and next year, we’ll probably go to 160 locations. Right now, we’re booked until the end of January 2003. We’ll have two teams of instructors out every week except for holidays.”
To handle the increased demand for the course, the U.S. DOJ allowed NERRTC to purchase an additional five adult human patient simulators (for a total of eight), as well as eight pediatric simulators. The program, which has eight full-time and 12 part-time faculty, recently hired 18 new part-time faculty members to assist with the course.