Among many other critical skills, a paramedic needs to know how to intubate, or insert a breathing tube into a patient’s trachea to help the patient breathe. There are few places to practice this life-saving skill, except an operating room.
The operating room at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) and Anesthesiology Associates of Bennington have joined those in hospitals all over the region in providing Vermont Technical College, also known as Vermont Tech, paramedic students the opportunity to intubate patients.
Vermont Tech’s year-long Paramedicine Program, which is the only one in the state, uses interactive television and dedicated on-site laboratory times to serve a class of 12 – 14 students between Bennington and Williston, VT. The program was established in 2015, and its first graduates completed their classroom-based studies in August. These students are now working in a wide variety of hands-on clinical experiences that last as long as 4 – 6 months.
SVMC has a longstanding relationship with area academic institutions training nurses, and paramedic students rotate through many of the same areas that student nurses do.
“The training is rigorous,” said Daniel E. Perregaux, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, who is an Emergency Department physician at SVMC, and the medical director of both Emergency Medical Services in southwestern Vermont and of the Vermonth Tech Paramedicine Program. He’s also an instructor in the program. “Intubation is one of the skills required of paramedics working in the field, and it is the same, whether it is performed in the back of an ambulance or in the safety of the OR. That's why the OR is such a good place to train with the anesthesiologists and gain confidence in this vital skill.”
As a requirement for being allowed in the OR, each student has performed many dozens of intubations on mannequins specially designed for this type of procedural competency. In addition, patients are advised that a student is available to perform the intubation and then decides whether to allow the student to perform the procedure or to have an anesthesiologist do it. Students are closely supervised and mentored, and an anesthesiologist takes over at the first sign of difficulty.
“The students are well prepared for their experience in the OR.” E. Michael Tarazi, MD, MS, anesthesiologist with Anesthesiology Associates of Bennington and chair of SVMC’s Department of Anesthesiology. “They take their training very seriously, and it is gratifying to see them master this important skill.”
They need to successfully complete at least five live oral trachea intubations to be granted the opportunity to take their national written and practical exams, which are necessary to become licensed.
“Paramedics are such an important part of a community’s safety and wellbeing. I am grateful to the many patients and to the anesthesiologists who allow the students to gain confidence with this important skill,” said Perregaux. “I am also pleased that Southwestern Vermont Medical Center is now an even larger part of getting our new paramedics started in what we hope will be long and fulfilling careers on our area’s lifesaving teams.”
Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) is a comprehensive, preeminent health care system providing exceptional, convenient, and affordable care to the communities of Bennington and Windham Counties of Vermont, eastern Rensselaer and Washington Counties of New York, and northern Berkshire County in Massachusetts. SVHC’s providers are members of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Putnam Physicians, a multispecialty medical group operated in partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock. SVHC includes the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation, a 150-bed long- and short-term care skilled nursing facility; the SVHC Foundation; and Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC), a 99-bed community hospital. SVMC’s services include an emergency department staffed by physicians each of whom is board certified in emergency medicine; the Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center, which is accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and managed by Dartmouth-Hitchcock; and a fully-digital imaging department. SVMC also includes 19 primary and specialty care practices and primary care offices in Bennington, Manchester, Pownal, West Dover, and Wilmington, VT. The hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission and is the state’s first Magnet Center for Nursing Excellence, a designation it has held since 2002. To learn more, visit svhealthcare.org.