Wilderness Medicine Students Hone First-Responder Skills

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Sharpening their skills to be first responders in outdoor emergencies, students in a Radford University Recreation, Parks and Tourism (RCPT) program are practicing their assessment techniques using mannequins and their own colleagues as "patients."

With outdoor videos, photographs and props setting the stage in the RU School of Nursing's Clinical Simulation Center or sim lab, students act out scenarios in which people are injured or become ill in a cold climate at high altitude, on a canoeing trip or in a rock-climbing adventure.

The 14 students enrolled in the class, RCPT 460 Wilderness First Responder, listen to lung and heart sounds, find pulses and observe posture and skin color to diagnose such conditions as acute mountain sickness, hypothermia, spinal injury or anaphylactic shock caused by insect bites or stings. Sim lab faculty members and work-study students portray the ill and injured, and are cared for by the "rescuers." The scenarios are videotaped so participants can review their responses and critique each other later.

RCPT Assistant Professor Anja Whittingon collaborated with Cynthia Cunningham, director of the RU School of Nursing's Clinical Simulation Center, to create the program with help from other nursing and education faculty and staff members. The first session was during spring semester 2012, with the next exercise scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 23. Students who complete the class earn a nationally recognized first-responder certification in wilderness medicine.

Whittington, who teaches the first-responder class, said it requires a great deal of patient assessment. "We practice on each other. It is good to get practice with others outside of our class to make it more realistic."

When Whittington came to RU in August 2011, she had worked previously with a community college on a similar exercise. "I approached Cindy when I was planning this class here, and she jumped right in."

Cunningham said the sim lab faculty and staff also benefit from the collaboration. "We look forward to it and plan on incorporating the simulation video into our presentation at state and national conferences."

To learn more about the history and mission of RU's Clinical Simulation Lab, visit http://simlab.asp.radford.edu/.

Oct 16, 2012
Bonnie Q. Erickson
(540) 831-8504