WSU to unveil Indoor ambulance simulator

Thursday , June 19, 2014 - 9:41 AM

Special to the Standard-Examiner

OGDEN, Utah—Weber State University’s Department of Emergency Care and Rescue (ECR) is set to unveil its new, state-of-the-art ambulance simulator. The simulator is the first in the nation to contain a sound system that replicates sirens and other outside noises, and the first ambulance simulator of any kind built in the Intermountain West.

Students already receive high-quality training at the university, said Chris Barragan, development director for the Dumke College of Health Professions.

“This just brings an immediate, real-world feel to what they’re receiving in their training,” he said. “The opportunity to walk into a classroom, and make it look exactly like it would inside of an ambulance, is fantastic.”

The first demonstration for the simulator will be held on June 20 from 9 a.m. to noon in the Marriott Health Science Building Room 409 as part of a critical-care transport course. Seven students, all of whom have previous experience working on an ambulance, will participate in the course. The university also will hold a community day in the fall to showcase the new unit.

In the past, said Barragan, students were putting people on stretchers and making sure their vitals were OK, but they were doing it in a classroom.

“Now we’re talking about mirroring what they see in the real world,” he said.

Jeffrey Grunow, associate professor and chair of ECR, said that he first saw an ambulance simulator at an emergency medical services educator symposium. When his department received funding from the Dr. Ezekiel R. Dumke College of Health Professions, he didn’t have to stop and think about what they needed.

“We have so many students who are coming to us without much previous field experience, either on an ambulance or in the fire department,” Grunow said. “There is little to no way for them to get experience before they take the paramedic program. This is a tremendous gift.”

The simulator will also be available to local fire and Emergency Medical System agencies for continuing education.

Recent paramedic graduate Jennifer Young said the simulator will help students quickly become familiar with an ambulance, cutting down the need for on-the-job training.

“The simulator is usually the first time most students will climb in an ambulance,” Young said. “This simulator will help them handle a real-life situation because it is so similar to what they will experience in the field. This will definitely benefit the community, the students and patients to have someone who has such realistic training.”

Most ambulances along the Wasatch Front now are Type I or Type III box ambulances, said Barragan, featuring a square space for treating and transporting patients rather than the inside of a modified van.

“The virtual ambulance in the lab is modeled after the Type III ambulance you see in the field,” he said.

It contains a simulated oxygen tank system that uses compressed air, and a fully functioning suction system for students to practice clearing airways. It is also the first simulator in the nation to contain sound and ventilation systems.

“More than all of those features, which are great, is the fact that instructors can monitor with multiple cameras what the students are doing,” Barragan said. “It’s great for the students as well, because once they’ve gone and performed some sort of ambulance action, they can debrief and see what they did right and what they did wrong.”

The unit has standard load dimensions and doors for students to be able to load and unload a weighted mannequin and to experience the space constraints of an actual ambulance.

“We hope this fills the gap for our students who don’t have real-life experience,” Grunow said. “When they go out to any fire department, and they get put in the back of an ambulance and the door shuts, they are not going to be unnerved.”

ECR also plans to replace its 24-year-old diesel ambulance. WSU’s ambulance is used for training and also is part of WSU’s emergency operations plan in case of a catastrophe that leaves Ogden and Roy ambulances unavailable to reach the university.

The ECR program is celebrating its 40th year. It was the first paramedic program in Utah and one of the first in the nation.

“I’m grateful for all of the changes we can do, and the ways we can bring up the state of the art for our students,” said Yasmen Simonian, dean of the Dumke College of Health Professions. “They’ll be more experienced in treating patients.”

For more information on the ambulance simulator, visit For additional information on the Emergency Care and Rescue program, visit

Standard-Examiner reporter Becky Wright contributed to this story. Contact reporter Becky Wright at 801-625-4274 or Follow her on Twitter at @ReporterBWright.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.