Iowa City

A new $8 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust will help the University of Iowa educate health care providers and first responders in rural parts of the state on procedures they don’t often have the opportunity to perform.

According to a release from the University of Iowa, the Simulation in Motion-Iowa (SIM-IA) program will provide valuable hands-on experience for health care professionals using a truckful of state-of-the art equipment and patient simulators.

The goal was to give rural first responders trainings for situations they might not see on a regular basis without the number of incidents seen in the more urban areas.

“Thankfully, crisis situations do not happen often in most communities, but when they do, rapid responses and skilled, experienced professionals are needed,” Cormac O’Sullivan, a clinical associate professor of nursing and director of the college’s anesthesia program who will co-direct SIM-IA with Assistant Professor of Nursing Jacinda Bunch, said in the release.

The use of similar simulations is a common learning tool for medical students. Speaking via phone, O’Sullivan said they started looking into a grant after one grad student wanted to bring the simulations to a rural hospital at which he’d done some training. After they’d done it there, another hospital asked if they could drop by their location, too.

“We sort of realized there was a need for this,” O’Sullivan said. “We wanted to try to do more. And as we talked with colleagues around here, we found that there was a number of our colleagues trying to go out and do simulations in rural environments, but we all suffered from an ability to get out there with the equipment.”

The grant was a perfect opportunity to try to address those barriers.

In preparing for the grant, the program directors talked with personnel from across the state, and the plan is for the vehicle to make stops in each county on an annual basis and provide training based on what each area views as most important. O’Sullivan cited a discussion he had with people up in Storm Lake after personnel there had a car go through a lake a couple years previously and noted that a simulation on that might be helpful for the next time that occurred.

The training will be open to more than just the emergency medical personnel and won’t be limited to those in the county.

“If we’re in Delaware County, for instance, we have no problem if counties form the north, south, east, west of Delaware, if those people come on over to get some education,” O’Sullivan said.

That training extends to everyone, from services that can’t do transports, to other first responders that may find themselves on the scene.

“Every step along the way, we want to help increase provider knowledge and comfort in an emergency situation. So, even the local sheriff, when he shows up on scene, he has a little bit of an expanded skillset, so when paramedics arrive, the patients are in a better condition than they would be if he hadn’t had the education,” O’Sullivan said, using a hypothetical. “We’re trying to touch anybody and everybody that may come in contact with a patient along the way.”

According to the press release, part of the grant money will purchase three vehicles, each about the size of a semi-trailer truck and equipped with a simulated ambulance cab, a simulated emergency room and a control room. Aside from the purchase and maintenance of the vehicles, the grant will also provide funding to offer the education at little to no cost for the first few years.

The grant lasts for three years, and while some of the equipment, like the dummies, will have to be replaced on a regular basis, the vehicles themselves should last for 10 to 20 years. So, as they are teaching local EMS, the organizers will also be looking for ways to make the training self-sufficient so it can be continued beyond the three-year grant.

The program is expected to begin in the summer of 2022 after the mobile simulation centers have been delivered.

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