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Saving Lives One Simulation at a Time

Written by: Eli J. Ridder

A patient is having a medical emergency during an appointment in their home. Nine-one-one is dialed and emergency services are en route.

Paramedics arrive and the occupational therapist assistant or physiotherapist assistant, known as an OTA or PTA, knows what they need and communicates potentially life-saving information.

Students from the paramedic and OTA PTA programs share ideas

Students simulate a medical scenario

A scenario like this could happen at any time to any health and wellness professional.

Because the OTA PTA students knew how to communicate with the paramedic in this scenario, it resulted in better patient care.

Potential scenarios like this one were simulated at Humber College during the Fall 2021 semester as part of an inter-professional learning experience.

It featured two different professions united by a mission of healthcare.

“We all get into health care because we care, we want to help people,” OTA and PTA program coordinator Lauren Riley said. “But we can't provide excellent client care unless we're talking to our colleagues.”

Inter-professional experiences in a college setting allow students to learn from each other in a practical way that will carry into their careers, she explained.

“It's such an amazing experience that I wish I had that going through school to learn those career-ready skills in a supportive environment.”

For alumni Kristly Anjelo Comia, the experience improved his inter-professional communication abilities.

“As an OTA/PTA I get to learn terms that we don’t use in practice and how to communicate with the paramedics,” Comia said.

In return, Comia and his peers were also able to share their knowledge with the paramedic students.

“As OTA/PTAs we get to educate the paramedics on proper body mechanics and safe techniques when transferring a patient,” he said.

“Overall, it was a fun learning experience.”

Through this Inter-professional Educational (IPE) experience, students worked to improve their communication skills with allied agencies in the setting of transfer of care, Paramedic Program Coordinator Jennifer Breuer explained.

Part of the process included the paramedic students learning better lifting techniques from OTA PTA students. This improved lifting biomechanics ensures that patient transfers are safer for both the patients and the paramedics.

For her students, the activity is a tangible way to learn how to interact with other professionals.

“As paramedics work in unpredictable environments, they often encounter other health professionals that they have to work with to assess their patients and gather history,” Breuer said.

“IPE gives the students the varied experience from other agencies and better replicates the experience that they will encounter in the real world.”

When it comes down to it, IPE activities like the one between paramedic and OTA/PTA students improve the industry, Breuer added.

“Being able to work as a team to share findings to better understand a patient’s condition, as well as knowing other ways agencies can assist can only improve overall scene and patient management.”

Humber’s Occupational Therapist Assistant and Physiotherapist Assistant diploma program was the first in Ontario to provide formal educational preparation for occupational therapist assistants (OTAs) and physiotherapist assistants (PTAs) and continues to provide quality education.

Areas of focus include restoring and maximizing physical function and occupational performance, ultimately enabling clients to effectively utilize their abilities in movement, daily functioning and activity while promoting overall well-being.

Humber’s Paramedic diploma program gives students a solid grounding in the knowledge and skills needed for this intense, fast- paced profession.

Those enrolled will learn how to effectively deal with medical and traumatic emergencies through practical and theory courses in paramedical science, human anatomy, physiology and psychology, pharmacology, and patient lifting.

A priority of both programs and the Faculty of Health Sciences & Wellness (FHSW) as a whole is a commitment to Inter-professional Education.

“I was really gratified to see this IPE activity in person,” Sarah Wilkinson, Program Coordinator Inter-professional Education, said. “This shows the expertise in both IPE and simulation of our faculty members.”

“I was excited to see these two FHSW priorities executed together. It worked for the students!”