TSTC Vocational Nursing instructor impressed with newest EMS technology

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The retrofitted cab of TSTC’s ambulance simulator allows students to “drive” streets in different weather elements and traffic situations. (Courtesy: Texas State Technical College/TSTC)

ABILENE — Adrienne Reyes was ready to see how Texas State Technical College would utilize the latest teaching technology on the Abilene campus.

Reyes, TSTC’s Nursing program director in Harlingen, has visited the West Texas campus twice this year to see North America’s first complete ambulance simulator. She was impressed with everything about the new technology during both visits.

“I first saw the ambulance in July,” she said. “My first impression was ‘Wow.’”

Her second visit to Abilene was during the college’s unveiling of the simulator to the public and some West Texas first responders.

“During the unveiling, I did get the chance to ‘drive’ it, and it does take some getting used to,” Reyes said. “When I had to make a turn, my stomach turned as well.”

After experiencing the simulator firsthand, Reyes said there will be many benefits for TSTC’s Emergency Medical Services and Nursing students.

“I know that with our EMS students, during clinicals they are not able to get behind the wheel and drive,” she said. “This will allow the students to get behind the wheel to be aware of their surroundings. You will have to keep an eye out for other vehicles and the people on the side while rushing to the scene.”

Reyes said the simulator also will help train TSTC’s Nursing students during class scenarios, such as when they staff a virtual emergency room in the college’s Immersive Interactive training lab.

“This could be a game changer for our program,” she said. “The nurses will be able to take over from the EMS students in the scenario in the immersive lab.”

The ambulance simulator, whose cab has TV screens in place of the windshield and side windows, is a converted Ford F-350 that features all of the necessities to train first responders for transporting patients to the hospital. The technology used in the ambulance was designed by SimLeader, a Canada-based company that develops safe training environments that allow teams to prepare for the unpredictable.

TSTC’s Abilene campus is home to the first complete ambulance simulator in North America, and only the second in the world. (Courtesy: Texas State Technical College/TSTC)

Robert-Francois Demers, executive director of SimLeader, said the ambulance capped a 10-year dream for him.

“We have finally been able to give students the technology to train with what is not just a tabletop screen,” Demers said. “TSTC is the real thing when it comes to using technology, and this has been my dream to design.”

Echo Healthcare, which designed TSTC’s Immersive Interactive labs in Abilene, Brownwood and Harlingen, converted the ambulance into a simulator.

Kurt VanOordt, senior sales executive with Echo Healthcare, said his company’s concept fits perfectly into TSTC’s mission.

“This ambulance is really a proof of concept,” he said. “It will be the premier training unit in North America. It began as a great concept and idea, and developed into a great tool to benefit the public.”

Registration for TSTC’s spring semester is underway. For more information, visit tstc.edu.