Fire and rescue trains with SIM-NE

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Arlington fire and rescue members were able to receive free, hands-on training in order to prepare for potential emergency situations.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center's SIM-NE (Simulation in Motion-Nebraska) truck has two simulations for volunteers to practice their skills on patients right in their hometowns.

On Aug. 24, SIM-NE provided one of its four trucks to the Arlington fire and rescue department, where members split into groups to train on figuring out a young patient's illness and also delivering a baby from an expecting mother.

The trainings were led by Phillip Oelschlager, regional coordinator and lead trainer for SIM-NE, and

Eileen Keenan, a nurse.

Oelschlager and Keenan viewed volunteers from the control room, giving them facts about the patient in order for the groups to figure out their course of action.

"(The patients) talk, breathe, cry, have pulses where we have pulses, have lung sounds — they can pretty much do anything except get up and walk off the cot," Oelschlager said.

The SIM-NE truck is useful for volunteers in rural areas of Nebraska to receive high-level training without having to travel out of town, Oelschlager said.

"Being able to do this at their own station, literally in their parking lot, with their own crews, that's the big thing," he said. "They're working with the people they work with on a normal basis, so they're comfortable with each other, they can learn together, they know how each other operates, so they'll be able to have that comfort level and we're able to put them in stressful situations in a non-stressful environment."

These types of stressful situations are also beneficial in order to help volunteers learn from any mistakes made during the trainings, Oelschlager said.

"If something goes bad here in training, we kind of celebrate those mistakes, because we know, and we've seen, that if they make a mistake in the truck in training, when it actually happens on a real patient and it actually matters and counts, that's when they're going to know, 'I did it wrong last time, I know how to do it right this time,'" he said. "If things don't go well, we just hit the reset button and do it again. We always end on a positive note and make sure they know what they're doing, make sure they know what went wrong and how they can do it better next time."

Volunteer Payge O'Callaghan said the department appreciated the "great, realistic, hands-on experience" of SIM-NE.

"We were able to learn a lot and practice skills we may not use often, without the pressure of it being real life," she said. "The training they provide is very valuable and worth a lot to us as a volunteer department."

Since SIM-NE's inception in 2017, Oelschlager said the four trucks, which are housed in Omaha, Norfolk, Kearney and Scottsbluff, have traveled to 90 of 93 counties and trained more than 9,500 volunteers during more than 550 visits.

The trainings allow smaller departments to work on and build upon their already-established protocols, Oelschlager said.

"We love the opportunity to come out," he said. "One thing we always say about our program is we have the ability to touch lives in every person in the state of Nebraska. If somebody from Omaha is driving to Fremont and gets in a car accident in Arlington, they're going to receive better care because the Arlington fire department is here on a Wednesday night training with us and getting better."

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