The Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) Air Ambulance program has become known for its red helicopters that have been dispatched to medical emergencies in Saskatchewan and Alberta, reducing the amount of time it takes to transport a patient to the hospital, and saving lives in the process.
But there is more to STARS than the air ambulance program.
It also offers a mobile education and training vehicle, which resembles a big, red motorhome. The service has only been available in Alberta, but now STARS is in the process of bringing one to Saskatchewan.
The Alberta unit was at the Saskatchewan Energy Training Institute in Estevan on October 17. The CanEra Energy Corp. donated $20,000 to STARS for a mobile education and training program in Saskatchewan, and STARS wanted invited guests to see all that the unit offers.
People were able to tour the vehicle, view the technology inside and find out how it can help train front-line medical personnel.
"The mobile education leader will tailor that training and teaching session to the community's needs," said Cindy Seidl, the base director for STARS' Saskatoon operations.
It offers multi-disciplinary training, she said. STARS will offer the sessions to physicians, nurses, EMS, first responders and all groups of care providers who could be first on the scene of an incident.
The mobile education program is particularly beneficial for those in rural areas, she said.
"It gives them an opportunity to perform some of the skills that they don't routinely get to perform in their small communities, and in a safe environment," said Seidl.
The motorhome boasts an array of technology used for simulations. Among them is a high-performance patient mannequin.
"We come up with the scenario, and this guy exhibits the signs," said Seidl. "We have somebody in the back, a controller, and the mannequin will actually talk to the care provider, and he will say 'I don't feel well' or 'I have chest pains.'"
Flight medic Matt Hogan was with Seidl in Estevan. Seidl said that Hogan has the ability to program vital sign readings into monitors, and make the simulation as real as possible.
For example, they can simulate an individual in their 50s complaining of chest problems and showing the symptoms of a heart issue.
They can change health factors on the mannequin, Hogan said. Or they can replicate a situation that would require resuscitation on the mannequin.
"The fact that my patient is pale, sweaty, symptomatic, and might be having some chest pain, I'm thinking 'I need to act right now,'" said Seidl.
If a health care provider is at an advanced level, then Hogan will challenge the provider to think through and work through a scenario, in a controlled setting, to become better prepared.
The motorhomes side cabinets contain airway management equipment and other necessary devices to help manage somebody's breathing if they're simulating breathing difficulties; and various medications for sedation, pain control, blood pressure support and resuscitation.
"In simulation, if you make it as real as possible, your brain is going to register that the same you would if you did a real call," said Hogan.
STARS will also use the simulator to train STARS' response workers, Seidl said, ensuring that the STARS' rescue workers are fully prepared for different situations.
Seidl said they have taken the Alberta motorhome to several events in the province already, and there is already a list of communities in Saskatchewan whose medical providers waiting to receive the training, which is provided free of cost.
She expects that the Saskatchewan unit will be operational starting in early 2014.