It’s not often that Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue crews are dispatched to a call involving an unconscious baby or child who lacks a pulse and is not breathing.
Between Jan. 1, 2015, and Aug. 2 of this year, TVF&R firefighters responded to 15 pediatric sudden cardiac arrest calls.
No matter how infrequent these critical calls come in, TVF&R crews move with purpose every time. Ongoing training for these high-risk, low-frequency calls ensures everyone knows their assigned roles as they rush to the young patient’s side.
A paramedic or company officer is designated as the person in charge, a paramedic will administer medications, and an emergency medical technician will immediately begin chest compressions while another firefighter EMT is responsible for airway management and helping the patient to breathe.
As additional crews arrive at the scene within minutes to provide assistance, they seamlessly blend into the team, supporting one another as they provide advanced medical treatment to bring the patient back to life.
During training simulations that began last week and continue this week, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue crews are participating in sudden cardiac arrest scenarios involving either a 6-month-old or 6-year-old patient.
“These simulations allow them to run through the actions they would take on an actual emergency call and practice procedures that research has shown will improve patient outcomes,” says Training Officer Benjamin Sims.
The high-tech mannequins and equipment they use track their performance, giving them instant feedback on the effectiveness of their chest compressions while also monitoring the patient’s heart rhythm. A training officer also uses an iPad synced to the mannequin to time stamp when specific treatments and procedures happen during the scenario.
Following the exercise, the crews sit down with the training officer to objectively watch video footage of their response and discuss how the call went and any areas where they could potentially improve a patient’s chance of survival.
“The purpose of these simulations is to take a look at how we perform on a personal, crew, and system level and provide crews with valuable feedback that they can take with them,” Sims says.
Crews participated in a hands-on training in May, where they focused on infant and child CPR as well as needle cricothyrotomy, an emergency procedure that is used to obtain an airway when other, more routine methods such as the use of a bag valve mask or intubation are ineffective.
This month’s simulations build on the last training to hone firefighters’ skills while also looking at crew resource management and decision making.
“How we communicate on these scenes is vitally important to how efficient we are.” Sims says. “We want everyone to be on the same page and have clear direction. These simulations give us an opportunity to see how everything comes together in as realistic of a scenario as we can make. Ultimately, we want to improve patient outcomes and save more lives.”