University of Michigan flight crew wins international competition

science | Oct 21, 2014 | By UM Health System

A car crash throws a pregnant woman out onto the pavement, gravely wounded – and about to have a baby who will also need immediate life-saving treatment. A medical helicopter lands nearby, and two flight nurses in blue jumpsuits rush to the scene.
Using bags full of advanced medical technology, and brains full of experience with critically ill patients, the nurses treat the woman, deliver the baby, resuscitate both of them after they stop breathing, diagnose and treat unexpected complications, and even reassure distraught relatives as they arrive at the scene.
SF simulator CAE cuphThen they load their patients onto the waiting helicopter, and speed away at 175 miles an hour toward the University of Michigan Health System’s medical campus.
Or at least they would have, if this had been an actual emergency.
Instead, it was a very realistic scenario for a simulated emergency – part of a competition that tested the skills and knowledge of a U-M Survival Flight crew and their colleagues from the U.S. and Canada. The nurses’ patients were advanced mannequins, whose vital signs, symptoms and even sounds mimicked the real thing.
And when the competition was over, the Survival Flight team emerged victorious, bringing home the program’s fifth international title in the 13 years the competition has been held.
The 2014 CAE Cup, as the prize is known, now stands alongside those from previous years in the Survival Flight staff quarters. It’s a tribute to the performance of flight nurses Chad Stoller, R.N. and Jeff Thomas, R.N. – and the hard work of the team that helped them prepare in the weeks leading up to the intense competition.
This year’s competitors included some of the top air medical services on the continent, only three of which reached the final round involving real-time treatment of a “pregnant” mannequin made by CAE Healthcare. Not only did the competitors have to diagnose and treat the simulated mother and baby – they had to narrate their actions as they went, explaining their evaluation and decision process.
“We could not be prouder of the way these guys performed in the final,” says Survival Flight medical director Mark J. Lowell, M.D., of the U-M Medical School’s Department of Emergency Medicine. “Their clinical care and prioritization, and ability to deal with problems thrown at them quickly and appropriately, were perfect. I could not find a thing that they did wrong.”
SF cup winners 2014bStoller, who has only been a Survival Flight nurse for 9 months after years working in intensive care units, and 10-year veteran flight nurse Thomas, studied and trained hard before the competition at the Air Medical Transport Conference in Nashville.
Throughout the summer, they spent time between real flights fielding simulated clinical situations from colleagues, streamlining their care, practicing narrating as they went. The effort took Survival Flight’s already intense nurse education process to another level, and involved flight nurses, the lead nurse educator, dispatch staff and pilots, as well as Survival Flight’s own clinical simulation mannequins.
When competition day came, they donned their maize-and-blue flight suits and wireless microphones, and performed their perfect routine in front of a very knowledgeable crowd and picky judges. Lowell and others gave the team back in Ann Arbor a play-by-play account via text message.
“We walked out of there sweaty and exhausted,” says Thomas. “Everybody wants to win but we sure like it when we do. And we felt extremely supported by our entire team, who worked to get us prepped and even pack equipment.”
The advanced simulators used in Survival Flight training and the competition make it easier than ever to prepare for real-life situations, the nurses say. They become more realistic every year.
Stoller notes that though the competition’s final scenario sounds extreme, it’s something the team could face any day. “Everybody said leading up to this that when you do the competition, it focuses you and makes you better,” he says. “And that leads to better patient outcomes when you head back home.”



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