Firefighters train like its real, knowing one day it might be

Firefighter training

As first responders, firefighters are often the first on the scene for life-threatening emergencies and need to spring into immediate action. Knowing how to accurately respond to these life-or-death situations is a critical component of their jobs, making training an imperative initiative.

Recently, over 60 Menlo Park firefighters did just that by participating in a simulation training focused on actual pediatric emergencies.

The Revive Initiative for Resuscitation Excellence at Stanford Children’s Health provides a unique learning environment designed to improve continuity of pediatric patient care by bridging the gaps between pre-hospital and institutional practice.

“Participants will be able to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to efficiently and effectively manage critically ill or traumatically injured infants and children using simulation followed by formal debriefings, with the hope of transferring this practice and knowledge to their own clinical environment,” explains Lynda Knight, MSN, RN, director of the Revive Initiative for Resuscitation Excellence at Stanford Children’s Health.

Created a decade ago, the Pediatric Advanced Workshop with Simulation (PAWWS) training was designed for Bay Area firefighters but has been well received by emergency medical services (EMS), emergency medicine, and pediatric intensive care medical directors, as well as the board of EMS directors and EMS chief training officers.

Currently, Central County Fire, which includes fire departments in Redwood City through San Bruno and Menlo Park take part in this training. Approximately 150 to 200 firefighters participate in this course annually. Actual fire department engine groups participate in simulated pediatric emergency scenarios, each based on real-life situations that had occurred in out-of-hospital events during the past year. To keep the training authentic and up to date, the simulations are changed every year.

Because pediatric EMS calls are rare — especially life-threatening ones — it allows them to practice and familiarize themselves with their pediatric emergency equipment and resuscitation skills,” Knight stated.

This year’s simulations included a child who had been pinned down by a vehicle and suffered cardiac arrest, a teenager who did not know she was pregnant until she had given birth, and a toddler who endured a severe allergic reaction after being exposed to peanuts. In all of these cases, firefighters need to respond quickly and efficiently for the best outcome.

“It’s the closest thing to simulating a real life-or-death scenario,” said Menlo Park fire captain and participant Chris Dennebaum. Captain Steven Susa agreed: “This is as realistic as it gets.”

“We always want to do the best that we can, and these simulations are even more difficult because you’re seeing your interventions in real time,” Menlo Park firefighter James Lennon said. “This type of training is so valuable,” he added.

The realistic nature of the simulations combined with the hands-on instruction they provide has resulted in a very positive outcome for course participants, including process improvements, changes to pediatric equipment and overall practice of taking care of pediatric patients.

Marc Berg, MD, medical director of Revive concluded, “We love our partnership with pre-hospital providers in our community. Their spirit to ‘train like it’s the real thing’ serves them, and our patients, very well.”

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