Oliver describes his first experiences at 'Hazard Alley', where Paramedic Science students practise their skills in a simulated environment.
To begin the second trimester of our BSc (Hons) Paramedic Science course, we all attended a simulation day to refresh what we have learned so far, and to prepare us for our clinical placements.
The day was held at ‘Hazard Alley’, a warehouse on an industrial estate containing a mock-up of a street including shops, a building site, a petrol station and even a section of railway.
While this centre is primarily designed to educate primary school children about day-to-day hazards, it also proved the perfect place for our tutors to stage multiple incidents that we could experience when on placement (which we start this week).
Upon our arrival, we were shown to the crew room and were issued a radio for communication with ‘control’, a Corpuls (a patient monitoring and defibrillation device), and an equipment bag.
Following this, we were told to wait to be dispatched to locations in Hazard Alley, and that feedback would be given on each case once the scenario reached its end.
Soon after the briefing ended, crews and solo responders began receiving calls ranging from drug overdoses to RTCs (road traffic collisions) and from mental health cases to cardiac arrests and near-drowning.
Gaining valuable experience
These simulations allowed us to experience cases from start to finish: arriving on scene, assessing the patient, treating as needed, and handing over the patient to the hospital if further treatment was required.
It also allowed us to experience some of the challenges that will face us, such as patients refusing to cooperate (in this case, an intoxicated 15-year-old girl) and stretched resources (as a solo responder I had to treat a child, found face first in a pond and in cardiac arrest, by myself for 15 minutes until the ‘nearest available crew’ could reach me).
This day also allowed me to make mistakes and learn from them without causing any risk to real patients.
For example, I forgot to bring my equipment bag with me when I was called to a lorry-cyclist collision and therefore delayed the treatment for the patient, as we had to wait for another crew to arrive with their kit before real treatment could begin.
After experiencing the results of my mistake in the simulation and receiving thorough feedback, I can be sure I will never make that mistake again!
A grand finale
The final call of the day occurred following our lunch break. Many of us expected that there would be a multiple casualty incident at some point in the day but we had no idea when, or what, it would be.
The first clue as to the nature of this incident came during our lunch break, when all conversation was interrupted by the sound of gunfire in the centre, and a call from control telling us to stand by for police to declare the scene safe following a mass shooting.
One member of our cohort was called to the scene to act as an ambulance officer, performing an initial scene survey – assessing all the patients on the scene and recording their order of priority for treatment, before requesting all the resources that would be required.
Upon hearing the call from the officer stating ‘major incident declared’, everyone in the crew room was on their feet putting on high-visibility jackets, grabbing their kit bags (I remembered mine this time!) and waiting to be dispatched.
Upon arrival on the scene, I was allocated to a lady having a panic attack who feared what had happened to her daughter, having witnessed the shooting (I was later told that the daughter was deceased, and was given the job of informing the mother).
Throughout this scenario, it was great working together with the whole of the cohort to provide the best care possible to all the victims. It never showed that we were only at week 13 of a three-year course.
Thanks to this simulation day, I feel that I am as ready as I could be for starting my clinical placement this week, joining a crew on a frontline ambulance and working alongside them for 24 hours a week for the remainder of the course.
See also: Helping to train first-year Paramedic Science students at Hazard Alley
Oliver studies Paramedic Science at ARU in Cambridge. Find out more about this and other degree courses at one of our Open Days.