Designing the Nation's First Critical Care Transport Helicopter Simulator

Monday, 9 November 2015

Celeste M. Alfes, DNP, MSN, BSN, RN
Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, USA

Air medical transport requires the practitioner to develop clinical and diagnostic reasoning abilities and manage the dynamic needs of the patient in unstructured, uncertain, and often unforgiving environments.  High-fidelity simulation can be instrumental in training interprofessional flight teams to improve competency through quality and safe patient care during medical transport that may otherwise take years to learn because of the inconsistency in real-life experience. Because of the particularly unfavorable conditions in critical care air transport, a helicopter simulator designed to replicate the phases of flight and train teams in critical care transport scenarioshas been developed for an academic center for flight nursing.  The center's goal is to provide quality nursing and medical instruction in a simulated flight center while also presenting relevant clinical experiences to prepare interdisciplinary teams of students for collaborative practice, research, and leadership. 

Since 2013, the school's Learning Resource Center (LRC) director has been engaged as the simulation information expert for the academic center for flight nursing to acquire, adapt, and implement a fully articulating helicopter simulator to train advanced practice acute care nurse practitioners in critical care transport. Taking a collaborative approach to the project, the LRC director and the school’s Flight Program director have networked with industry leaders and faculty from medicine and biomedical engineering. Taking center stage in the flight center is a Sikorsky S-76 ® helicopter fuselage adapted for interprofessional education, team training, and collaborative research to promote quality and safety in critical care transport across the lifespan. This innovative interprofessional academic center and team training facility will be the first in the United States, with only one similar center at St. John’s Rescue Academy in Hanover, Germany. Working with industry leaders in flight simulation, substantial engineering and manufacturing resources were dedicated to adapting simulation technology to the scale and weight of an S-76 fuselage and to integrate motion, visual and sound effects into prescribed training scenarios with a high level of realism.The flight simulator is outfitted with a Federal Aviation Administration approved medical interior for the most realistic training of nurses, physicians, emergency medical service, and ambulance personnel. A sound system and lighting controls allow faculty to manage the audio and video image capabilities inside the fuselage, replicating the noisy and sometimes poorly lit conditions of flying. The fuselage windows have been replaced with a double pane Lexan™ screen utilizing a rear projection system to simultaneously display real-world views of particular mission scenarios that include takeoff, landing, hover, and transition of the various phases of flight. Video-recording capabilities give faculty the ability to record and store data for post training debriefings, research analysis, scholarly publications, and presentations. Training activities include crew resource management, pre-deployment training and practice edification for civilian air medical crews, as well as providing a resource for faculty research topics related to team-building and collaboratory practice. The critical care transport simulation scenarios are shared locally with community providers, nationally with government flight teams, and internationally with our academic exchange partners at Aichi Medical University in Nagoya, Japan. The flight simulator was delivered on 12/15/14 and the grand opening of this facility is scheduled for May 2015.