FAIRFIELD — Students studying emergency medical response at Solano Community College got a close look of a medical transport helicopter Wednesday after it landed on campus for a brief training exercise on trauma operations.
A California Shock Trauma Air Rescue crew of two flight nurses and a pilot demonstrated the landing process before emerging from the aircraft to deliver a briefing to a group of about 22 students.
Flight nurse Michelle Starbuck said helicopter responders are trained on how to work a scene, conduct hospital transfers and deliver “safe patient care quickly, efficiently and without killing anybody basically.”
Communication between the flight and ground crews was proven essential during the landing process, which was demonstrated as Cordelia Fire Protection District volunteers established a landing zone on the grass in front of the campus.
“We try to do training with the different fire departments that we work with periodically so that we make sure that everybody’s working on the same page,” Starbuck said.
She said the flight crew always maintains communications with some entity – either ground crews, traffic control or hospital personnel – while responding to and from a scene.
“Everybody thinks it’s really easy to talk on the radio, until you see that mic and you go ‘um, uh, ah,’ ” Starbuck said. “So our job is to learn how to talk on the radio and be very succinct in what we have to say in gathering information from the people on the ground.”
CalSTAR flight nurse Richard Ikerd shared some advise to the group that mostly included Solano College students taking instructor John Zimmerman’s EMR course, a prerequisite for EMT certification that leads the way for careers in fire service, paramedicine and nursing.
“If you want to be a paramedic, get through the EMT (program), get out there and get hired with Medic Ambulance or somebody, and go to work and just put yourself in the environment,” he said.
“If you’re interested in a career in the fire service, start volunteering – get your EMT (certification), get through the program – then start volunteering . . . and just immerse yourself in the environment and get all the experience,” he said.
Starbuck said the practice of a flight nurse is “more broad and encompassing than in a hospital.”
“I am allowed to do what a doctor might be doing in the ER,” she said. “I get to do it in here.”
Before performing a mock hot load, the group of students that also included guests taking EMT classes through Fairfield’s United Heart Training Center asked questions and peered inside the helicopter that had space for one patient and a bundle of medical equipment.
“When we land on scene we don’t shut down,” Starbuck said.
Firefighters used spider straps to attach student volunteer Amanda Clayton onto a backboard for the demonstration. One group carried Clayton to the rear of the helicopter and a second group retrieved the patient – all while ducking under the moving rotors.
After the exercise, Clayton, who will take EMT classes in the fall, said she now understands how the experience could be “unnerving” for a trauma patient.
“You can’t see, you have to trust everybody,” she said.
Clayton, who is striving to become a trauma nurse herself, said Wednesday’s experience offers a different perspective for that field of work.
“It’s definitely always nice to see it from a patient’s perspective,” she said. “It gives you empathy for someone going through that.”
Reach Adrienne Harris at 427-6956 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aharrisdr.