Pro EMS Center for MEDICS Uses State-of-the-Art Equipment to Train Nurses from Cambridge Health Alliance

Every Wednesday afternoon, 14 nurses from the Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) spend four hours at the Pro EMS Center for MEDICS, using the state-of-the-art equipment and Simulation Lab to learn emergency skills for their new positions as emergency department (ED) staff.
Pro EMS Center for MEDICS Director Chris Kerley works in conjunction with CHA Nurse Educators to teach the group critical ED procedures and protocols such as intubation and cardiac arrest management with equipment, including the Adult and Infant Airway Management Trainers, Multi-Venous IV Training Arms, and PROMPT Birthing Simulator. The nurses also have the opportunity to work with high-fidelity patient mannequins, SimMan and SimNewB. Pro EMS Center for MEDICS is the only EMS agency that has a SimNewB mannequin available for training in the Northeast.
The CHA class has covered techniques such as how to properly immobilize patients and manage their airways. Kerley has also taught participants how to initially assess and respond to a wide variety of clinical scenarios, from babies who are not breathing, to adults presenting with an acute abdominal emergency, to pregnant women in the final stages of labor.
“Chris Kerley is extremely knowledgeable and has a great teaching style,” said Karen Harrington-Hiltz, a Somerville Hospital staff nurse and one of three individuals who coordinate the class.
The course – which also includes a weekly Wednesday morning didactic component at Somerville Hospital – was created in response to recent administrative changes at Cambridge Health Alliance’s three hospitals: Somerville Hospital; Cambridge Hospital; and Whidden Hospital in Everett. When some of the hospitals’ intensive care, medical-surgical and psychiatric units were recently closed, nurses from those units were offered the opportunity to participate in the emergency medicine class, retrain, and work in one of the three 24-hour EDs.
According to Harrington-Hiltz, the group – whose diverse members range from recent nursing school graduates to ICU nurses with decades of experience – began attending the weekly lectures in July 2009 and should complete their practical skills training by this November. Concurrent with their training, the nurses work shifts with preceptors in the EDs.
“This is a major transition for all of them. The emergency department has a completely different focus,” said CHA Nurse Educator Bill McCarthy, another class coordinator.
“You never know what’s going to come through the door at any given moment,” he added. “These nurses are being exposed to a lot of things so that when they encounter them in the ED, they will have had exposure to them.”
With SimMan, a patient simulator with realistic features, participants have an unparalleled learning experience. During the lesson on abdominal emergencies, for example, the nurses practiced placing a Foley catheter in the mannequin and draining “urine.”
The seven-pound SimNewB was used when the class covered neonatal resuscitation. Harrington-Hiltz said this experience was particularly helpful as most of the class had limited exposure to pediatric patients in their previous positions.
“Pediatric emergencies, which involve dealing with critically ill children, are a very emotional and difficult time for health-care providers,” she said.
Harrington-Hiltz, McCarthy, and the third coordinator, CHA Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist Margaret Buckley, based the lectures and skills sessions on the Emergency Nurses Association’s Emergency Nursing Core Curriculum. The material covered is guided by the types of patients their EDs treat most frequently.
Participants in the class will also receive certification in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), Kerley said. In fact, as part of the class, the nurses will have the opportunity to ride along with paramedics in an ambulance and observe emergency medical care in the field.
CHA chose to implement the practical training portion of the class at the Pro EMS Center for MEDICS as they were previously familiar with Pro EMS’s equipment. On Cambridge Hospital’s Annual Competency Day, all of the nurses in every department travel to Pro EMS to run through a clinical scenario, Buckley said.
Further, as part of the collaboration between Pro EMS and CHA, any CHA staff physician, nurse or physician assistant can take any of the Center’s courses – including monthly ACLS and PALS credentialing classes and a 12-lead EKG interpretation class offered every one to two months.
Pro EMS also benefits from this longstanding working relationship with CHA. Pro EMS Center for MEDICS paramedic students perform clinical time and receive training at CHA facilities. Paramedic students rotate through the Cambridge Hospital emergency department and gain clinical experience in several areas of the hospital including pediatrics, psychiatric emergency service, ICU/CCU, and geriatrics. CHA facilities and staff provide superior training and clinical experiences to the future paramedics of the EMS system.
About Cambridge Health Alliance:
CHA serves more than 400,000 residents in the metro-north Boston area, including Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Revere and Malden. The integrated healthcare system is comprised of the Somerville Hospital, Cambridge Hospital and Whidden Hospital, 20 primary and specialty care sites, the Cambridge Health Department, and the health plan Network Health.
CHA is a teaching affiliate of a number of institutions, including Harvard Medical School, Tufts University School of Medicine, Harvard School of Public Health, and the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

For more information:
Pro EMS Center for MEDICS
Cambridge Health Alliance

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