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EMS unveils medical flight simulator

June 6, 2017

A mannequin gets the very best of care from EMS’ Chris Bassil, left, and Michel Lacasse in the new AHS air ambulance flight simulator, the first of its kind in Canada.

AHS’ new air ambulance simulator a Canadian first

Story and photo by Shelly Willsey

The air ambulance team of Alberta Health Services (AHS) has come up with a novel down-to-earth way to perfect their skills.

In fact, they never leave the ground on Canada’s first mobile flight simulation trailer — developed in-house by AHS and partners — and unveiled June 1 by Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

The flight simulation trailer features the fuselage of a King Air 200 aircraft mounted on hydraulics to simulate take-off and landing. The simulator complements existing training and gives trainees high-fidelity, hands-on learning with the delivery of patient care as well as the placement of supplies and equipment on an air ambulance aircraft.

“Medics are already trained when they come in,” says Brent Thorkelson, EMS Staff Development Officer and project lead, “but we’re providing them with simulations that are evidence-based — and are identified as good simulations to be deliver to the practitioners to keep their competencies up,”

Although based at Edmonton International Airport, the flight simulation trailer will travel across Alberta to train EMS air ambulance paramedics, as well as partners in ground ambulance, hospital-based teams, post-secondary institutions and other healthcare professionals.

There are 10 air ambulance bases and about 225 AHS air ambulance paramedics across the province.
“There weren’t any other examples of mobile simulation units that use an actual aircraft fuselage, so it was up to our team to determine how to make it work,” says Thorkelson.

“Fitting an aircraft with simulation equipment into a trailer and making it mobile was a unique process. The success of this project can be attributed to the talent of the dedicated people who put our imagination into reality.”

A fully-equipped King Air 200, which replicates Alberta’s fixed-wing air ambulances, was donated by Lakeland College. The simulator’s design was developed by the Learning and Development team of AHS EMS through collaboration with AHS air ambulance and AHS partners.

“We’re committed to ensuring all Albertans have access to high-quality air ambulance care,” says EMS Chief Paramedic Darren Sandbeck. “Simulation training enables learners to practise and master individual and team skills. Rehearsal is one of the best methods of learning, and it’s a benefit to our patients to have well-rehearsed teams delivering care.”

The $739,000 project was funded by a Government of Alberta grant. Donations included a new, fully-functional LifePort bed, an Alere EPOC blood analysis system and video laryngoscope parts from Karl Storz Endoscopy.

The mobile flight simulator will be integrated air ambulance training later this year.