Local firefighters, EMTs treat 'SimMan'
Washington Township firefighter/paramedics Scott Stewart (left) and Mike Hutton and EMS Manager Eric Johnson (right) work on SimMan during a training session Nov. 20. SimMan is a patient simulator that can be programmed to display a variety of symptoms and sounds to add more realism to training. Buy This Photo
Washington Township paramedics last week got the chance to treat one man with a litany of ailments, including a nail protruding from his face and breathing troubles.
And all township firefighters and EMTs are guaranteed to see him again.
Washington Township purchased SimMan, a life-sized dummy used for training, in 2002 for $31,600.
The fire department's new training manager, John Nichols, said SimMan has been "mothballed" for a while, but a software upgrade last week will change that.
"It makes real-world scenarios for us," he said. "In the past, training like this relied on imagination."
Previously, the township used scenarios where paramedics responded to made up situations, symptoms and problems. SimMan changes that.
"This device gives us sounds. It talks to you," Nichols said. "It adds a realm of realism without sacrificing a person."
As a core group of employees were trained on SimMan last week, they learned how to program the dummy to give them some of the same problems they see in field, such as constricted airways.
SimMan can bite down on a breathing tube, complain, stop breathing and even vomit -- in sound only, though.
The training available with SimMan allows paramedics to see his chest rise and fall while breathing, feel a pulse, get vital readings on machines and even insert a needle into a collapsed lung. When a stethoscope is put against his chest, SimMan's lungs can be heard filling with fluid.
For Nichols, the possibilities are endless.
"We can be as imaginative as we want to," he said.
"We can simulate hypothermia," Nichols said, adding the dummy can help simulate a situation that has the dive team pulling someone out of freezing water.
The dummy has attachments for broken bones, a gunshot wound and even a cut off limb to practice stopping blood flow.
"This adds reality and credibility," Nichols said. "This will really improve our skill sets."
SimMan will eventually be used monthly for training, Nichols said.
Training for the Washington Township Fire Department is a constant.
Monday through Wednesday fire training is scheduled and Thursdays see EMS training. Friday hosts specialty training and Saturdays are reserved for hydrant work.
"The organization itself mandates that (training)," Nichols said. "We set our own standards."
Training with SimMan will start at the beginning, he said.
"At first, we'll work on the basic skills," he said, listing examples such as cardiac problems and airway management. "We'll start there and then throw them some curveballs."
Along with symptoms, SimMan can also live or die in each situation, depending on how his ailments are responded to.
All actions performed on SimMan are recorded, said Rick Ritt of Laerdal, the company that sells SimMan.
The recording ability gives the chance to go back and see what was done right or wrong, he explained during last week's training.
"These are used throughout medicine," Ritt said. Last week, he used a pregnant version of SimMan to train midwives.
SimMan won't make his only home at the township training building.
Nichols said he plans to use SimMan in the back of EMT vehicles for an even more realistic training experience. SimMan could also make an appearance at the citizen fire academy.
"We can take it to other stations and work in the back of a truck," Nichols said.
"We can work with guys in the back with a scenario and work with new drivers up front. You can't drive an ambulance like you drive a car."