When you have a medical emergency at home and you call 911, the Evanston paramedics and firefighters who respond have only a vague idea of the medical challenge that awaits them. But a joint program between the Fire Department and Evanston Hospital is designed to make that lifesaving call more effective.

This week a group of paramedics is receiving special training at the hospital’s Center for Simulation and Innovation, which somewhat resembles a television sound stage for Chicago Fire.

Fire Chief Greg Klaiber says the department’s goal is to have each of Evanston’s 100-plus first-responders take the training once or twice a year.

Essentially the activity involves a medical emergency scenario that a paramedic is likely to face when going out on one of the more than 5,600 ambulance calls the department receives each year.

They come to the hospital in teams of five, as that is typically the number of personnel who respond to a 911 call, according to Division Chief Dwight Hohl.

Two come in the ambulance and three more on a fire truck. The extra men are essential, Hohl says, as typically a patient needs to be carried through narrow hallways and down stairways to the waiting ambulance for transport to the hospital emergency room.

Hospital staff monitors the action from a nearby control room, where they can make the mannikin talk.

When the trainees arrived at the hospital for the simulation Tuesday afternoon, they were told that the patient was a teenage boy suffering anaphylactic shock, presumably from a bee sting, and was having difficulty breathing.

They were ushered into a room, where a lifelike mannikin was stretched out on a bed. The paramedics were able to ask him questions, which were answered from a nearby control room where doctors and nurses could watch the entire proceedings on a television monitor while the episode was being recorded for later review.

One staffer played the role of the patient’s mother, who answered questions about the incident.

At one point, the team leader said “We have the patient in the ambulance and we are now traveling to the hospital,” and he simulated a telephone conversation that typically occurs between the hospital emergency room and the paramedics during transport.

With the simulation completed, the paramedics then moved to a classroom where one of the emergency medicine doctors on the hospital staff, Dr. Jared D. Novack, discussed the simulation and answered questions from the firefighter/paramedics.

Dr. Novack reviews the simulation with the trainees.

He referred often to the department’s manual of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)  that the paramedics use as their guide, although an emergency leaves precious time to consult a manual.

Chief Klaiber notes that the men often use their time at the firehouse to brush up on emergency procedures and that they learn something new from each emergency call.

The simulation training center at Evanston Hospital is a state-of-the-art 13,000-square-foot facility used to host medical and surgical training, a technique that is growing rapidly in the medical field.

Top: Paramedics go to work on their “patient.”


Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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