Life-like simulations prepare emergency department for real-life trauma |

Life-like simulations prepare emergency department for real-life trauma

Dr. David Cionni, an emergency medicine physician at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs, performs an assessment of patient Ki Kim as Ann Compton, R.N., prepares a tourniquet during a training exercise Thursday. Diane Villavicencio, simulation lab manager, back left, and Melissa Uchitelle-Rogers, simulation lab facilitator, observe in the background.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It may have been a simulation, but the scene inside the UCHealth Yampa Valley Health Medical Center’s emergency department Thursday looked all too real as Dr. David Cionni, an emergency medicine physician, and staff worked quickly to stabilize a “patient” who had suffered serious injuries after falling two stories from a roof while clearing ice.

The patient, played by Ki Kim, was wearing a “surgical cut suit,” which was developed as a realistic way to simulate the look, feel and smell of severe traumatic injuries. The suit gives first responders and physicians a realistic experience where they can perform real procedures on a live human.

“What it is and what it allows us to do is actually create a moulage  (applying mock injuries for the purpose of training) type patient,” said David Steiner, simulation program coordinator with UCHealth’s Clinical Education and Innovation Center. “But this simulation uses a real person instead of a mannequin. That’s really the game-changer because too often trainings are just on a piece of plastic.”

On this, day the emergency department staff came into the room to find Kim laying on a hospital bed in a pool of simulated blood with more spurting from where a bone was sticking out of his leg.

The broken bone, pool of blood and the continuous bleeding are all thanks to the $45,000 suit that Kim was wearing.

Underneath the heavy, awkward suit, Kim, an education coordinator with UCHealth’s simulation team, is uncomfortable, but he is not in pain. His face has been sprayed with a mixture of glycerin and water to simulate sweat, and he has been instructed by simulation team members to be fidgety and appear to be fading in and out of consciousness.

“The really big thing is the engagement of the participants in the training,” Steiner said. “Not only do we have a real person, but we actually really make the suit bleed. The combination creates a sense of realism that the people in the simulation are really taking care of a patient and not just pretending.”

That realism can be felt in the room as Cionni begins to communicate with the patient as he examines his injuries. At the same time as nurse Ann Compton prepares a tourniquet nurse, Lynn Cerasoli, Rachel Rangel and Maureen Taylor are practicing their roles providing care for the patient and support for the emergency room physician.

“When they see that there’s blood pouring out of the wound, it totally changes the reality of that training,” Steiner said. “It just ups the level of stress.”

In the span of minutes, the team has determined the patient’s needs, what must be done and a proper course of treatment. In this case, Cionni and the staff stop the bleeding, identify the injuries, start a transfusion and determine if the patient needs to be flown to Denver for treatment.

“This is what we train to do all day, every day,” Cionni said.  “We feel like we’re very, very good at it, but having the opportunity to go through all the different key orders therapeutic regimen, the devices we’re going to use, grab them and actually put them on the patient and see how the patient responds to that is really invaluable. … This is really an incredible tool for us.”

Lindsey Reznicek, communications specialist for the hospital, said the drills and practice happen at the hospital regularly to ensure that physicians and staff are always ready to care for patients no matter what their needs may be.

“Simulation exercises help with muscle memory of necessary actions,” Reznicek said. “The physicians and staff already have the skills to deliver the very best care for our patients but keeping those skills sharp, especially on injuries that are high in acuity but low in frequency, is so important.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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