FALL RIVER — It’s standard practice for EMT personnel and paramedics to practice on plastic mannequins to hone their lifesaving skills, but a group of first responders were given a hands-on opportunity to train on real human tissue at a state-of-the-art cadaver lab located in the city.
It’s the first time the PC Institute for Medical Education has offered such training for EMTs that is normally offered to medical professionals and medical device companies.
On Wednesday, first responders from 30 communities gathered at the bio-skills facility, located in the Prima CARE complex on Pleasant Street, that included learning experiences on cadavers with real life-threatening scenarios.
PC Institute Executive Director Victor Machado said the pilot training event was put on with the idea of garnering feedback from the local emergency services companies to see if the training would be “something valuable.”
“We wanted something for the communities to ensure they are all safe when 911 is called,” said Machado. “This location is where we want people to learn. There are no mistakes here, there are only learning opportunities.”
More than 60 EMTs and their supervisors trained and observed hands-on cadaver labs addressing chest trauma, blocked airways and advanced vascular access as well as simulated trainings on manikins — which are similar to mannequins, but are human-shaped models used to help simulate medical, surgical, or clinical scenarios.
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Donned in blue scrubs, masks and medical gloves, a group of EMTs gathered around one of three cadavers set up in the lab that addressed real-life scenarios that the EMTs may experience when called to a medical emergency.
This cadaver — referred to simply as “tissue” by the medical community — is being used to demonstrate a needle chest decompression, which used when a patient is experiencing serious chest trauma.
The men and women listen intently to Dr. Henry Crowley, a local doctor who specializes in anesthesiology and is still an active paramedic.
Crowley said if a patient experiences chest trauma, the results can mean that air enters the pleural cavity in the chest and causes the heart and lungs not to work. A needle is inserted in a certain area of the chest to relieve the pressure and allow the body to work normally again.
“They need to know when it’s right to do it and when it’s not right to do it. That’s one of our goals today. When they encounter this, these are highly critical procedures that aren’t performed often. So, we want to create a situation where, although highly critical, they are comfortable when the procedure is indicated and when it’s not,” said Crowley.
One side of the cadaver’s chest cavity is opened, exposing a rib cage and one lung with black marbling, which Crowley explains shows the person was a smoker.
“Not only is this human tissue, we are able to actually able to physiologically and anatomically show them what they are doing — that’s what’s so unique,” said Crowley. “One of the reasons for showing them what’s going on underneath the skin is they have a 3-D evaluation of what can go wrong.”
Training taken to ‘the next level’
Wendy Ashworth, an EMT from Acushnet, feels the chest area of the cadaver for the right location to pierce a long needle through the skin and into the chest cavity.
Ashworth said she’s not had to perform the procedure out in the field yet, but called the training on human tissue “the next level.”
“This is beyond any sim (simulation) lab; this is where you need to be with real patients. It’s like fixing a car. You can fix a car all day long on a computer, but you learn by actually doing it,” said Ashworth.
A veteran EMT on the Westport Fire Department, Andy Ferrarini said he has done the procedure before in emergency calls, but found training on the cadaver useful.
“It’s not a difficult procedure but one we don’t do often. But the big benefit is now we can see exactly where the needle goes in, where the catheter goes in and where you want it to sit and exactly what it’s doing,” said Ferrarini.
Ashworth said thanks to the training on human tissue,, “I probably will have a lot more confidence now that I’ve practiced on a cadaver.”
“This is much, much better. This place if phenomenal,” said Ashworth.
Somerset EMT Joshua Adams, a 17-year veteran first responder, said he’s not had to perform a needle chest decompression on a live patient yet, but called the experience an “excellent” training opportunity.
“A lot of the book knowledge is already in our head,” said Adams. “Training is both in class and hands-on. This is obviously hands-on. You can push a needle through a plastic dummy as many times as you want, but it does not feel the same as actual tissue. The experience of actually feeling your fingers move through tissue, you know you’re doing it right because now you’ve done it before.”
“I feel very confident now.”
Jo C. Goode may be reached at [email protected] Support local journalism and subscribe to The Herald News today!
This article originally appeared on The Herald News: First responders, EMTs train on cadavers at PC Institute in Fall River