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High-tech University of Iowa simulator aids firefighters

Emergency medical service training taking place in Cedar Rapids

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Emergency medical service training often is a low-tech affair for Cedar Rapids firefighters, with EMS Training Capt. Matt Kunkle giving verbal feedback to crew working on lifeless mannequins.

This week, however, the University of Iowa’s Mobile Emergency Simulation Lab is in town and the mannequins in the converted 42-foot Winnebago decked out in black and gold are no dummies.

As firefighters ran through a scenario Wednesday involving an elderly patient with breathing problems, the mannequin simulated breathing with a rising and falling chest. Jenny Reese, an EMS educator with the university, used a controller to guide the mannequin’s vital signs. The result was a more true-to-life training exercise.

“This makes it a lot more realistic for them,” Kunkle said. “We’re very fortunate to have the University of Iowa so close and for them to have such an awesome outreach program.”

Firefighters going through training enjoyed it, too.

“It was nice,” Capt. Matt Hilliard said after one training scenario. “It was nice to have a mannequin as high tech as that. ... It makes it a lot more realistic.”

Christopher Metsgar, director of the EMS Learning Resources Center at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, said the university has had the simulation lab “for some time,” but the university recently rolled it back out with the new black-and-gold look. While the simulator has made regular appearances on RAGBRAI as a simulator and mobile first aid station, Metsgar said it now is offered to agencies across the state for educational purposes.

“It’s a way for us to reach out to agencies and assist them with their education and allowing their providers to be proficient,” he said.

Metsgar said the university has a strong relationship with the Cedar Rapids Fire Department; the department provides hazardous materials training for the school’s paramedic program. Sending the simulator to Cedar Rapids to assist firefighters in training was a natural progression.

The inside of the simulator looks like the interior of an ambulance. Metsgar said the lab can simulate a variety of medical issues and trauma with patients from newborns to seniors.

Reese said firefighters and other medical professionals can use the simulator to work on their skills and education, teamwork and interviewing patients.

“It’s limitless,” she said.

The lab is to be at Central Fire Station through Friday so all firefighters can undergo the training, Kunkle said.

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