For the second year in a row, medical students and emergency workers from near and far came to East Tennessee State University’s James H. Quillen College of Medicine on the Veteran Affairs Medical Center campus at Mountain Home Saturday to get experience in the ETSU Human Patient Simulation Lab and the Gross Anatomy Lab.
More than 50 students from ETSU’s medical and pre-medical programs as well as emergency workers signed up to earn experience in a variety of medical situations, but students from northern Georgia, North Carolina, West Tennessee and Southwest Virginia all paid $75 for their chance to take advantage of the resources made available through the college.
Though three meals were provided for the medical types, there was a lot of hands-on experience available that might make others lose their meals.
Work with cadavers, birthing and mass casualty stations were just a few of the learning stops available throughout the day.
Dr. Caroline Abercrombie, an ETSU instructor and head of the anatomy lab, was one of those in charge of the program, which had around 40 people the year before. She said the ability to offer hands-on educational experience to students across the region is nothing short of invaluable. Students, Abercrombie said, while in school are often hard-pressed for extra money and going to regional conferences can cost big bucks when travel, hotel and entry fees are tallied, and those often only take place in large lecture halls.
The ETSU simulation lab is nearly 100 percent hands-on experience with medical situations that might arise for anyone working in health care. Small groups move about through the day, she said, with volunteer instructors from ETSU who can expose and explain everything from how to deliver a baby to how to react to emergency situations where there are many victims all at once.
“This all makes them more comfortable doing it,” Abercrombie said. “And these bodies are available.”
Using Quillen’s cadavers give the program's attendees — many first-year medical students — the chance to make mistakes where it doesn’t really matter, Abercrombie said.
“Every minute matters. It will be life and death, so now’s the time to learn everything,” she said.
Jay Johnston is one of the instructors helping teach those in attendance, specifically in mass casualty emergencies. His military background, which includes seven tours in Iraq and Afghanistan have put him in the spot where he needed to react to mass casualties and he relishes the chance to help out with the up-and-coming medical professionals.
“It’s a privilege,” Johnston said. “This is the real way to learn what you’re doing.”
Abercrombie said Johnston’s portion of the course applies well to those who come up on large accidents or even tragedies like those that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or at the 2013 Boston Marathon. In his simulation, students all acted out a variety of injuries while screaming and blinking lights were used all around them, showing what it’s like to be in a chaotic emergency situation.
Another stop in the training was with an interactive mannequin, blinking and all, that was in portraying a young, non-English speaking child of migrant parents who is suspected to be suffering from pesticide poisoning. Daniel Gouger, a second-year medical student said this simulation is something that resembles a common occurrence in East Tennessee and the mannequin shows well what happens when a young child’s air path is not functioning.
Next door was a room where Dr. Brandy Ervin from ETSU’s Obstetrics and Gynecology department was teaching students how to deliver a child and complications that can happen when doing so.
“The first time I delivered a baby, I thought I was going to pull its head off,” she said.
She took turns with each person in the group to show to proper technique in delivering and how to hold the child after the birth.
Pre-med students Tiffany Ellis and Ashley and Makaela Hamilton were volunteering to help out and get experience. All three from Cumberland Gap said the ability to take part in the hands-on education is invaluable with what they want to do in the world of medicine.
“If you’re just thrown into something, you’re not going to know what to do,” Makaela Hamilton said.
Moving forward, Abercrombie and her fellow organizers want to see the simulation become more common and popular, hoping people will find it valuable enough to warrant it as a must-see stop for students and emergency providers looking to attend conferences in the area.
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Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said medical and pre-medical students students took part in ETSU's simulation program, but it also includes emergency service workers