Vehicle extrication teaches students emergency techniques

LEWISBURG, WV (WOAY) – Students at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) had the opportunity to learn firsthand about what happens before an accident victim reaches doctors.

On Nov. 2, WVSOM’s Rural Health Initiative, Emergency Medicine Club and Wilderness Medicine Club presented a vehicle extrication demonstration in which a mock accident scene was constructed to give students a close-up view of first responders in action.

Representatives from the City of Lewisburg Fire Department, White Sulphur Springs Emergency Medical Services, Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, Greenbrier County Emergency Ambulance Authority and Anthony’s Truck Repair & Towing participated in the third annual event.

Melinda Kizziah, president of WVSOM’s Emergency Medicine Club, emphasized that such demonstrations are vital for medical students. “It’s important for those interested in emergency medicine because it shows how things progress before the patient makes it to the emergency department,” she said. “It establishes the importance of continuity of care and of making sure the patient is safe every step of the way.”

Prior to the demonstration, students received hands-on instruction in key areas of the extrication process. Fire department personnel introduced some of the equipment used to stabilize a vehicle and to cut through a vehicle’s body and windows, such as the Jaws of Life. Emergency workers showed students how to employ backboards and Kendrick Extrication Devices to safely immobilize patients for transport. And Gregory Spears, M.D., and resident physician John Ford, D.O., both of Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, helped students practice intubation.

For the extrication itself, students entered a wrecked vehicle and took on the roles of accident victims. Firefighters used a variety of tools — an axe, a picklike instrument called a Halligan bar, even the car’s own antenna — to shatter windshields before removing the vehicle’s top with the Jaws of Life. Emergency workers assessed the status of the patients and placed them on hydraulic stretchers in order to transport them, making sure to accurately communicate their condition to medical professionals.

“It was a great experience,” said first-year student Kaitlyn Belanger after the event. “It gave us an appreciation for the other teams we’ll be working with. Unless you’ve worked in this field before, you don’t really know what happens before the doctor sees the patient.”

Lewisburg Fire Chief Joseph Thomas said his department was pleased to participate. “It gives students an understanding of what we go through and how long it takes us to get a patient out. It’s a good program, and we enjoy doing it,” he said.

To thank the organizations that helped, WVSOM’s Emergency Medicine Club made donations to White Sulphur Springs Emergency Medical Services and Anthony’s Truck Repair & Towing. WVOM’s Wilderness Medicine Club made a donation to the City of Lewisburg Fire Department.

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