Iowa mobile simulation lab prepares first responders for 500-mile bicycle ride across state
SIM-IA has been visiting cities on the RAGBRAI route to offer EMS training through clinical scenarios
By Olivia Allen
Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus
DAVENPORT, Iowa — Local first responders geared up for possible health-related RAGBRAI crises this week, prepping for the cyclists’ conclusion to their roughly 500-mile ride to Davenport on Saturday.
The training came courtesy of the University of Iowa College of Nursing’s semi-sized “Simulation in Motion-Iowa” (SIM-IA) mobile education truck. The truck has for two weeks been visiting cities on the RAGBRAI route to supply clinical education to EMTs, paramedics, nurses and physicians.
Each session includes simulated clinical scenarios, such as traumatic injuries, that may occur during RAGBRAI, allowing local healthcare professionals to ensure they have the skills and experience to respond.
It’s often difficult for fire departments to simulate lifelike, interactive emergency scenarios, said Davenport’s EMS Division Captain Todd Whitchelo.
“There are a lot of skills that we perform that you really can’t practice on a real person,” he said, citing examples, such as intubation and drug administration.
But with SIM-IA, first responders can do just that — in a controlled environment.
“We’re taking advantage of technology here. It’s pretty much cutting-edge " Whitchelo said. “It allows our paramedics and our EMTs to really get into the scenario versus just going through the motions. That, in turn, allows us to provide a better service to the public.”
Fully equipped SIM-IA trucks contain a simulated emergency bay, video control room, an ambulance box and four patient-simulator mannequins of various ages.
During the training, decisions are immediately reflected in the mannequins’ vital signs, requiring healthcare providers to judge for themselves what their next step must be.
“They (mannequins) don’t get up and walk away,” said Kolby Schmeizer, SIM-IA education coordinator. “That’s about the only thing they cannot do.”
On Tuesday, participants had to tend to “Jack” — who suffered from a heatstroke — and “Candy,” a 33-week pregnant mannequin who was hit by a car and fell into a ditch.
“Today’s scenarios are all brand-new, just for RAGBRAI,” said Schmeizer. “Things that you don’t see a lot but are very critical is kind of the point here.”
When it comes to events like RAGBRAI that pose higher risks of physical injury or exhaustion, hands-on practice makes perfect.
“It becomes muscle memory,” Schmeizer said. "... like if I’ve had a hiccup in the simulation lab, next time, I know not to do it that way. So then, they’ll (first responders) be more successful.”
To Captain Ryan Stremlow, SIM-IA is an opportunity to learn and grow as a provider.
“We’re kind of trained in a certain manner, and (SIM-IA) comes in and gives us a little bit different look on a similar training,” he said.
With RAGBRAI in Davenport at the same time as the Quad-City Times Bix 7, and the Mississippi Valley Fair soon after, Stremlow and Whitchelo agree the simulations are timely.
“I think what stood out to me is they tried to make it pertinent to the time of year,” Stremlow said.
Schmeizer said continuing SIM-IA’s RAGBRAI tour is “a must.”
“We enjoy it,” she said. “The stops are always different each year, so it’s kind of fun to go out, interact and refresh on our skills before RAGBRAI comes through those areas.”
Since launching in the summer 2022, the SIM-IA program has trained more than 2,500 healthcare professionals in 53 counties.
Brian Mohr, District Chief of Training, said Davenport Fire has used SIM-IA before for medical training.
He foresees the partnership continuing.
“We would like to see them visit at least once a year, if possible,” Mohr said. “We have three shifts, so in the past, we have had them scheduled to work with each one.”
To learn more about SIM-IA, or to schedule your own sessions, visit https://sim-ia.uiowa.edu//.