On August 4, 2016, a multi-car accident slowed traffic considerably on I-71S during afternoon rush hour. As third-year med student Kristen Pan drove by, she saw a bystander pull a baby out of the window of an overturned car. The accident had just occurred, and EMTs hadn’t yet arrived. Pan’s instincts kicked in. She stopped to see if she could help.
At the time, Pan was in the middle of her pediatrics clerkship at Cincinnati Children’s. As part of her third-year requirements, she had recently completed a simulation course through the medical center, titled “Interprofessional Education for Nursing and Medical Students.” The course covers both evidence-based communication techniques and simulations focused on pediatric respiratory distress and shock.
Pan estimated the baby to be about 18 months old. She explained to the bystander that she was a University of Cincinnati medical student and she could do a basic assessment of the child. With the mother stuck inside the car, the bystander calmed the parent while Pan used the assessment skills regarding work-up for shock that she had learned in her interprofessional education course.
The baby was bleeding from a laceration on his scalp but had no obvious injuries otherwise. Pan assessed his breathing and circulation. She noted he had no evidence of head trauma and was alert and moving all of his extremities. Then the ambulance arrived.
“Part of the interprofessional training dealt with communication exchange and proper hand-off of patients,” Pan said. “That helped when the first responders in the ambulance arrived. I knew what to tell them and how to communicate it clearly.”
Pan stayed long enough to see the mother safely removed from her car and reunited with her child. It seemed that other than some bumps and bruises, both would be OK.
Interprofessional education is beneficial for a number of reasons, a top one being that nursing and medical students are brought together to train side by side. It’s often the first time they’ve done so.
“The simulations allow them to work together on communication as well as clinical skills,” explains Aimee Gardner, director for the Center for Simulation and Research. “It promotes collaboration and provides the chance for the learner to not just watch and read, but to get hands-on experience.”
Looking back, Pan feels strongly that she was at the right place at the right time. Prior to her pediatrics clerkship, she says she likely would not have pulled over. “I don’t think I would have felt qualified,” she says. “Having just been through the simulation helped me feel confident that I could contribute something to the situation.”
That’s precisely what simulation training is designed to do, says Gardner. “Simulation allows the learner to internalize skills needed for real-world situations. Kristen’s story demonstrates that active participation in a simulation training builds confidence to act calmly and appropriately when an emergency arises.”
The Center for Simulation and Research was founded in 2001 and was the first pediatric simulation center in the United States. It offers 90 simulation courses for medical education and research to both students and already credentialed faculty. Each year approximately 300 nursing and medical students participate in the interprofessional education course, which has been offered since 2014 and brings in students from all of the local university nursing programs.
Rhonda Cooper, RN, is manager of student services with the Center for Professional Education (CPE), the department that coordinates the course along with Graduate Medical Education (GME). She stresses that bringing medical and nursing students together to learn peer-to-peer increases collaboration. “Both sets of students report benefits from working with the other group,” she says. Benefits include enhanced communication, awareness of each others’ roles and increased comfort of working with other disciplines. “What it comes down to is promoting the best possible patient care,” Cooper says. “Interprofessional education helps to do that by creating efficient and effective healthcare teams.”
Pan is now also a believer in interprofessional simulations. “This experience highlighted the importance of simulation training for me,” Pan says. “When I was at the accident scene, I was surprised at how comfortable I felt, but I know it was because I had been through the motions before.”
Cooper was energized by Pan’s story. “I was happy to hear that she was able to make a difference for a family on the highway because of our program,” she says. “Our class positively impacted somebody who was in an accident. And this young medical student had a positive feeling about how she provided that service. That’s exactly what this course is for.”
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