VICTIMS of a simulated terrorist attack were loaded onto a rescue helicopter to be airlifted to hospital from the University of Limerick last Friday as a ‘real-time’ operation by paramedic students swung into action.
The trainee paramedics, who were joined by nursing and medical students, took part in the outdoor exercise on campus grounds, involving members of Limerick City and County Fire and Rescue Service, HSE ambulance personnel, as well as the Shannon-based Coast Guard Rescue 115 helicopter.
29 students on the BSc in Paramedic Studies course were tested in their response to a terrorist attack simulation of a car crashing into a group of people.
A field hospital was erected on the university grounds to treat up to 20 patients.
The “terrorist” was removed from the car by firefighters wearing chemical suits, with an element of controlled contaminant built into the exercise.
The simulation even included a staged press conference featuring UL Journalism students after the event.
Frank Keane, Senior Clinical Teaching Fellow on the BSc in Paramedic Studies course, said: “We have a specific way of teaching that involves the concept of problem-based learning. We wanted something that would be of value to the students and one of the areas they have to be conversant with is a paramedic response to a major incident.”
“This was a terrorist scenario, where someone drove a car at speed into a crowd of people before crashing it. There was a contaminant in the car and we mimicked the actual response to this situation,” he explained.
“The students had five patients in really bad shape and had to prioritise one of them to go on the helicopter, so that requires a judgement call. They each did runs to the helicopter carrying a patient on an orthopaedic stretcher so they all get experience of it.”
“It is about preparing students to face this kind of situation in real life.
He said that involving paramedic, nursing and medical students, as well as journalism undergraduates, was a good way of preventing them from being “trained in a silo”.
“It’s broader than just the students doing what they have been taught to do. It also gives them an understanding of how other people operate and what they need to be aware of from the perspective of other professions,” he said.
First-year paramedic student Ella Daly, (20) explained that the ”casualties” were treated at a field-style triage to determine who needed treatment.
“We have the fire brigade and the helicopter is arriving – it is good practice for a real incident, we are dealing with patients in a realistic setting. It gives us that real-world experience, you can only learn so much in a classroom, whereas doing something like this will really teach us a lot,” she added.
Second-year medical student Michael Pantermarakis (25) added that the “mass casualty simulation gives us that experience and is quite applicable to real life, it is better to be prepared for these unfortunate situations than not”.
“It is great to be involved from our perspective in the whole simulation,” he said.
The BSc course at UL was the first undergraduate paramedic programme in the country when it was launched in 2016.