Mercyhealth renovates hi-tech SIM lab to train for burn victims

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Mercyhealth Hospital recently completed a $2 million renovation of its hi-tech simulation lab in its Prehospital and Emergency Services Center. Emergency care prehospital providers are now training to treat burn victims in critical situations.

"Really the sky is the limit as far as what we can do in the SIM lab," said Dr. John Pakiela, the associate EMS medical director and REACT medical director at Mercyhealth Hospital.

Emergency care providers including first responders, paramedics and medical students can now practice real-world chaotic scenarios with Mercyhealth's renovated hi-tech simulation lab.

"You don't want your first real-world experience to be under pressure from somebody who's actively trying to die on you. You want to have the skills and the appropriate background knowledge and training to go with a dynamic situation, so this is actually an extra safety layer for our providers now that they can do it multiple times in the lab before they have to do it in the field," said Pakiela.

Since Thanksgiving, Rockford firefighters responded to more than 50 house fires.

"There's a lot of mortality that occurs, we see tragedy all the time from house fires, so our providers have to have that critical experience to take care of not only one, but several patients at the same time," said Pakiela.

"That’s going to be your brother, your sister, your grandmother that our providers are going to be out there working on and we want to send out the best of the best," said Jessica Johnson, the senior paramedic educator with Mercyhealth Hospital.

A team of emergency care providers demonstrated the new technology through a simulated house fire with a burn victim.

Emergency care prehospital providers practice on realistic high-fidelity simulation manikins who have computer hardware and wireless programming within them. The manikins are covered in blood and charcoal from the fire to make them look like real burn victims. Each manikin weighs about 200 pounds to provide a realistic patient experience for the providers.

Behind a glass window, there is a control room where the simulations are controlled.

"In the control room, they can continually change the scenario and adapt as the patient’s condition changes for the better or the worse. The simulators are made to respond appropriately to the medications they are giving," said Pakiela.

Even the room's environment includes a realistic setting and sounds.

"Our job is to make our communities better and to make the lives of the people we serve better. Mercyhealth has allowed us to do that with this training center and with the investment that we have in our community," said Pakiela.

Educators hold 20-minute training scenarios every day. The SIM lab can recreate a number of scenarios including car wrecks, hunting accidents, and natural disasters. After each training session, the group will debrief what they did right and wrong to learn from their mistakes before they are out in the real world.

"It is that tactile stimulation, that hands-on learning that we want to promote. We want them to embed that learning process so they're going through the actual activity and not getting out in the field going, 'Oh, yeah, I was taught this in class how to draw up a medication and how to push it, but no one ever actually showed me how, I've never actually done it.' We want them to do it on a simulator first before they actually get out there and do it on a live patient," said Johnson.

Thousands of students will go through this training each year.

The center will remain on Mercyheatlh's Rockton Avenue campus, even when the new hospital and trauma center on Riverside opens next year