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Mobile simulation unit roves rural Ind. to train providers

Providers are able to choose from 45 different training simulations; the most requested topic is sepsis, the unit’s executive director said


Photo/Union Health Foundation

David Kronke
The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, Ind.

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The Rural Health Innovation Collaborative (RHIC, pronounced “rick”) visits small rural hospitals throughout the Wabash Valley and 14 other sites scattered from Evansville to Fort Wayne in a mobile simulation unit capable of training healthcare providers and students on how to treat 45 different medical incidents.

That is, it did until its old ambulance, a 2002 model purchased eight years ago from the Terre Haute Fire Department, gave up the ghost.

On Thursday, Jack Jaeger, RHIC executive director, and Union Health Foundation President Joel Harbaugh introduced a shiny new mobile simulation unit, a refurbished 2015 ambulance acquired thanks to a $50,000 gift from the foundation.

“The main point is the small hospitals in rural areas just can’t afford the kind of resources that we have,” Jaeger said. “This training would not be possible without the ability for us to drive to them with this mobile simulation unit.”

“We are so in need of continued growth and development in our workforce, and this will certainly help us deliver,” Harbaugh added. “When the unit goes out into our rural communities, they can take a lot of the newer technology and processes to the outlying hospitals and communities and educate them to prepare for emergencies that will ultimately have better outcomes for the patients that they serve.”

When Jaeger and the mobile simulation unit visit small hospitals, healthcare providers there select areas for which they most need training. The most requested topic is sepsis, in which a bodily infection that triggers a chain reaction throughout the patient.

Equipment inside the ambulance is authentic and functional — it just doesn’t treat human patients, but lifelike simulators instead.

“The whole purpose of having high-fidelity simulators is so you don’t have to practice on real people while you’re doing training,” Jaeger explained.

“Our simulators are very sophisticated, very authentic-looking and act like real human beings. They play the roles we need them to play. We have a simulator that delivers babies; the baby is a simulator that acts like a baby.”

Jaeger noted that the mother and infant simulators are particularly important, since 32 of Indiana’s 92 counties do not have obstetrical level services.

“If a baby is born in 32 counties in this state, they’re going to be born in their emergency department,” he said. “The emergency department personnel are really not trained on how to do obstetrical services. This training will help prepare them for those emergency situations.”

Harbaugh said that not only can RHIC’s ambulance help train healthcare providers, it can also attract others to consider joining the profession.

“This mobile simulation unit can open the eyes of people who perhaps don’t have a broad perspective on what healthcare careers are available out there,” he said. “They can learn more about respiratory therapy, about physical therapy, occupational therapy. It’s not just about being a doctor or a nurse.”


(c)2022 The Tribune-Star (Terre Haute, Ind.)