On Saturday, October 29, 2022, the Sampson Community College (SCC) Emergency Medical Science (EMS) program hosted their first large-scale training exercise for their paramedic students this semester. This is the second exercise SCC has hosted for the EMS program, but the first time it was this large-scale. The event was conducted overnight, beginning on Saturday at 5PM and concluding at 8AM on Sunday morning to simulate an actual night shift they could cover in the field. This brought the exercise to a total fifteen hours of high-intensity training for the students.

SCC faculty worked to ensure this exercise was as close to real-life as possible. They transformed the majority of campus to work as a dispatch center, trauma scenes, emergency rooms, and even break rooms to help simulate what the students would experience once they complete their degrees and certifications. A professional was also on-site to help the actors look as though they had actually been in these scenarios by having cuts, bruises, and protruding bones applied by makeup.

The experience was set up to involve all of the current EMS students at SCC, but it was designed to be a final technical test for the seven students the program has graduating in December 2022. It was an excellent leadership opportunity for these emerging paramedics to lead a team of their peers through the scenarios.

Thomas Newcomb, a Paramedic Instructor at SCC, took the lead on ensuring this final “stress test” for the students was something they would be able to remember throughout their career. The inspiration for this exercise came from Johnston Community College, as they also host a similar event for their students.

Newcomb explained, “This event is really an eye opener for our paramedic students to see how much more difficult this job becomes when you add in factors such as stress, exhaustion, and frustration.”

Newcomb and the team came together to discuss what challenging calls they had encountered in the past to help script the 60+ scenarios they had prepared for their students to face. These scenarios covered a semi-truck accident, drug usage, a collapsed building, etc. with various information for each incident to show students how they can approach a situation with wrong or limited information. Each scenario was built to last anywhere from ten minutes, depending on the situation, to a full hour or two to immerse the student in various levels of stress during a situation. These situations also incorporated additional sights and smells to further enhance the experience.

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Students handling a sedan-semi-truck collision scenario. After the experience, the students were able to confer with instructors and professionals to see where they could have improved their performance and what was conducted well.

SCC’s instructors were very resourceful to ensure they simulated these experiences with the resources they had at hand. For example, to simulate the collapsed building, organizers had used black tablecloths in a dark room over the instructional tables with obstacles in the path.

The College works diligently to ensure that all students are equipped with knowledge both inside the classroom and outside. Not only are the students given their lessons during the week, they are also required to complete a specific amount of physical fitness outside the classroom. This is to ensure they will also be able to meet the physical endurance required as a paramedic to successfully navigate situations they may face in the field in the future.

“We are already seeing short term returns with the ‘eye opening’ of how serious these situations can become and how important it is to study and stay on top of their material” Newcomb continued. “The students learned how resilient they are. They handled challenging medial situations on little to no rest. They ended the night exhausted and sore but feeling prideful.”

Paramedic student, Allston Freeman elaborated on the training exercise, “This event showed us how intense some calls could be, and that we could handle it. This is as close as we could get to practicing medicine in a controlled environment before applying learned skills in the real world.”

During the exam, students were observed and evaluated by outside organizations that were invited to help give additional feedback by professionals. After each scenario, professionals debriefed students on what was handled correctly and where the students could improve when approaching similar situations in the field after graduation.

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Actors for these scenarios also included professionals from Cape Fear Valley Hospital that instructed the students on how to interact with hospital staff when transferring the patient into their care.

This event started coming to fruition in July 2022 when Newcomb began reaching out to partner agencies in the area to offer some expertise to the exercise. The exercise was also an opportunity for the students to speak to these organizations directly. Each organization was given the option to set up a recruitment booth at the exercise to help ensure employment right after all their certifications are complete.

“The EMS community is excellent in the desire to help prepare the next generation of providers. We had immediate interest from multiple agencies,” voiced Newcomb when asked about the creation of the exercise.  

SCC came alongside Durham County EMS, Wake County EMS, Cape Fear Valley Mobile Integrated Healthcare/EMS, Bladen County EMS, Johnston County EMS, and Duplin ounty EMS to make this exercise possible. SCC also partnered with local healthcare workers, fire departments and police departments to ensure that the experience exposed the students to other agencies and specialties they will also be interacting with in the field.  

SCC Board of Trustees member and President of Ezzell Trucking, Catherine Ezzell Joyner, was able to observe some of the events unfold on Saturday evening.

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From Left to Right: Angela Magill, Department Chair of EMS, Dr. Bill Starling, President of SCC, Amanda Bradshaw, Dean of Workforce Development and Continuing Education, Mrs. Starling, and Catherine Ezzell Joyner, SCC Board of Trustee, were able to discuss the significance of this training opportunity for the students.

She shared, “The EMS Training Exercise was an eye-opening experience: the ability for SCC to provide real-life simulations of a full night shift for our students was an invaluable experience. To see the active learning, and the real-life application of skills outside the classroom was impressive. I am proud of the SCC team for organizing such a high-quality collaboration between SCC and multiple EMS groups from the Southeastern NC to provide our students with an opportunity rarely found elsewhere in the state.””

In a final quote, Newcomb concluded, “[SCC instructors] learn more from the event each time we host it and are well on our way to accomplishing our dream. I’m excited for future opportunities and the change to continue to build training relationships with our educational partners.”

SCC is committed to producing the best possible paramedic professionals in the community with each graduating class. This is just one step to ensure that our students are as prepared as possible for their future careers in the workforce.

For more information about the SCC’s EMS Program, please visit https://www.sampsoncc.edu/ems.

About Sampson Community College

Sampson Community College is a member of the North Carolina Community College System, located in Clinton, NC in Sampson County. The college offers many programs to include two-year degrees, college transfer, continuing education and workforce development options and early college education.