Mayo trains for the worst

LIFE-SAVERS — From left, Matt Jewett, nurse anesthetist; Dr. LeRoy Hodges, surgeon; and Deb Zarn, scrub nurse, work on “Mr. Smith” during an emergency simulation in the operating room at Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont on Thursday.

LIFE-SAVERS — From left, Matt Jewett, nurse anesthetist; Dr. LeRoy Hodges, surgeon; and Deb Zarn, scrub nurse, work on “Mr. Smith” during an emergency simulation in the operating room at Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont on Thursday.

FAIRMONT — The operating room lights burned brightly. The staff was appropriately gowned and masked. Machines beeped with vital statistics.

The surgical setting was real in every sense — almost. Thankfully, there was no blood, and Mr. Smith, the “patient” undergoing a drainage of a pelvic abscess, was a simulation mannequin.

The scene played out on Thursday at Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont as part of a hands-on educational exercise developed by two Mayo-Fairmont employees, Matt Jewett and Ryan Schmidtke.

Jewett, a certified nurse anesthetist, previously had participated in a single-day simulation training at Mayo in Rochester and knew the class would be beneficial to his Fairmont co-workers. He and Schmidtke, a surgical services nurse manager, started meeting six months ago to develop three different scenarios of high-risk/low-volume situations, those dire abnormal events that occur during normal surgical procedures. The simulation situations involved cardiac arrest, uncontrollable bleeding and a difficult airway during surgery.

“We might do 1,200 surgical procedures a year and maybe have one cardiac arrest,” Schmidtke said. “How do we practice that? How can we better prepare our staff for that?”

The simulation exercise allowed Fairmont’s surgical staff “a safe zone to practice those high risk situations, in a way that is not-threatening.”

“The ability to have the simulator here to help us with training is a huge benefit,” Jewett said. “It’s going to allow us to be more comfortable, that we have the ability to take care of these things and take care of our patients in Fairmont.”

About 15 Fairmont employees, from surgeons to lab personnel, took part in the simulations. Local staff was given an overview of the three simulations, participated in the exercise and then held an immediate debriefing to evaluate the experience. Participants will complete subsequent evaluations after one month and after three months.

Staff from the Rochester simulation center were on hand to offer support and advice for the exercise.

“Act like you would if it were a real patient,” the Fairmont personnel were told. “Learning entails some risks. You can’t do 100 percent, but do it so you can learn and improve. It’s not a test of you as an individual. It’s an opportunity to practice as a team.”

Not only did Rochester send its simulation team, but ancillary staff from Rochester took over the normal day-to-day responsibilities so the Fairmont staff could participate in training.

“This (training) is critical to our success,” Schmidtke said. “In any high-stress situation, if you have not practiced certain measures, your awareness and anxiety levels are up. This provides us with real-life training where it’s not a patient, where if you do make that mistake, you can learn from that.”

“The cases that we’re doing — the low-volume, high-risk cases — it’s essential that we have practice doing them so in the real situation, it’s not the first time for us,” Jewett said. “It’s something that we may not be comfortable with, but at least we will have done it before.”

“The ability to interact with our co-workers is going to be top-notch because of this training,” Schmidtke said.

“It’s a benefit to us as staff, and it’s a benefit to the community as well,” Jewett said.

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