For paramedics and emergency medical technicians, patient assessments are the key to everything.

“We take a systematic approach to determine what the patient is dealing with,” said Ted Lee, associate professor of emergency medical services. “We’re constantly looking to see if what we’re trying to do is making a difference. And if the initial intervention isn’t working, we need to change what we’re doing and adapt to it.”

Practicing these life-saving skills around a classroom table is one thing. But it’s an entirely different matter when in the back of an ambulance.

A custom-built pair of ambulance simulators will allow Missouri Southern students to become familiar with the constraints and challenges they’ll face in the real world.

Located in Room 312 of the León Health Sciences Building, the pair of adjoining simulators were built by a Texas company over 23 days last fall. Constructed in the center of the room, the simulators sport both the university colors and EMS logo.

Lee said the grant-funded simulators offer an amazing opportunity for students – especially in a larger class.

“When you have a large class, having just one makes it hard to cycle everyone through,” said Lee. “You have a lot of people standing around or watching, but only a few doing something. With two, we can do a medical scenario on one side and a trauma scenario on the other, and engage much more of the class in that process.”

Each simulator has four cameras, with video feeds allowing instructors or other students to watch what’s happening in real time. Lee said a program the department plans to purchase will offer interviews with patients in a medical facility, allowing students to know what the scenario will be before getting into the ambulance simulator.

Partnering with other departments – such as nursing or respiratory therapy – will also allow students to practice moving their simulated patients to and from the back of the ambulance.

Lee said students at Missouri Southern participate in internships that include both “truck time” in real ambulances and clinical experiences with local hospitals or other healthcare providers. The new simulators will allow them a learning experience that will be “pretty profound.”

“Trying to realize spatially what they’re dealing with can be a pretty steep learning curve,” he said. “Getting familiarity with working with a patient in a classroom-controlled setting before going out into the field is significant.”