Two local paramedics brought home accolades in a regional competition testing their mettle in managing multiple trauma patients during an emergency situation.
Sampson County EMS paramedics Chris Pritchard and Allen Harr competed in the 1st Annual Mid-Carolina Pre-Hospital Trauma Competition in Chapel Hill April 30, a lead-up to the 24th May Day Trauma Conference.
As part of the competition, teams had to treat and manage multiple patients that were involved in a traumatic event scenario, showing consistency with all current North Carolina College of Emergency Physicians (NCCEP) protocols, procedures and polices. The competition was open to agencies who are members of the Mid-Carolina Trauma Regional Advisory Committee (RAC), which encompasses Alamance, Chatham, Cumberland, Hoke, Montgomery, Moore, Orange, Richmond, Sampson, Vance and Warren counties.
With agencies from nearly a dozen counties participating, the Sampson EMS team was able to take third place. Pritchard and Harr said the plaque was believed to be the first the county has received in such a paramedic competition.
“It feels pretty good,” said Harr. “I was surprised. It’s the first one the county has ever won.”
For Harr and Pritchard, they were thrust into an explosion at a barbecue, with two badly burned patients. Just moments earlier, they had been isolated in a room right up until their time came to compete. Each team that finished the scenario they were given exited a different way, so as not to give any advantage to any team beforehand.
As soon as they were prompted, the Sampson paramedics gathered their equipment and were given the scenario as they approached the area.
“We were sequestered in a room,” Harr explained. “No one knew what the scenario was until you get out to go in that area.”
When they made it to the area, they saw what they had to deal with — a barbecue where an explosion had just occurred, badly injuring two patients. “We designated the patients we would take and went to work,” said Pritchard.
Pritchard and Harr made general assessments, gauging airway breathing, traumatic and life-threatening injuries, bleeding and hemorrhaging and burns. In the scenario, the patients — mannequins in the mock-exercise — had suffered severe burns, which had to be treated. As Pritchard initialized an IV and administered drugs while intubating his patient, Harr diagnosed and treated second and third degree burns on his.
“We were preparing them for transport,” said Pritchard.
During the exercise, paramedics solicited information from bystanders as to what happened and what they saw that might help in treatment. Throughout the process, evaluators judged and graded participants’ performance. The entire ordeal lasted about 15 minutes, every second counting in a dire emergency.
And Harr and Pritchard were able to take advantage of the time they were given.
“We enjoyed it,” Harr said. “We had a good time as far as the competition, and also in terms of the experience with other agencies to see how they do things different than how we do it. It was good to see all they they do. It was just a good learning experience all around.”
Harr said the competition’s close proximity to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Health Care also allowed the team to glean expertise in treating burn patients from those who have it. Pritchard similarly credited the learning experience the competition provided, and said the third-place plaque earned by Sampson County was the first of its kind received locally in an ALS (Advance Life Support) paramedic competition.
“It was great,” said Pritchard. “It was a wonderful learning experience for us. We enjoyed being part of the competition and representing the county. I’m glad to be able to bring back something to show our efforts are ongoing and that we’re trying to better ourselves for what we have to do in the streets.”
Harr began working with Sampson EMS in July 2010. Pritchard started full-time in Sampson in 2007, went away for about a year and came back in 2008, initially at part-time status and now full-time. For Harr, the April 30 competition was his first. Pritchard has participated in similar contests. While they are each different, he said, the experience is always enriching in its own way.
“I think each one is a learning experience overall,” said Pritchard. “It gives you more experience for future competitions and abilities to do what we do for work every day.”
And the two are not mutually exclusive, with competition and training in scenarios feeding into real-life response and vice-versa.
“Some of the experiences and calls we do run and will run will tend to reflect what we see in competition,” said Pritchard. “It’s a teaching tool for what we teach EMTs. We tend to draw from experience and what we do in competitions as well.”
The team said they looked forward to future competitions.
“We’re going to the preliminary state competition in July,” Harr said. “You have to make it through the preliminary competition to make it to the Office of Emergency Medical Services competition in October.”
The May Day program, presented by UNC Trauma Program and sponsored by Greensboro Area Health Education Center, covered a wide range of topics with the goal of advancing Emergency Medical Service Systems and trauma care, including contemporary clinical issues in life-threatening trauma patients, emerging trends and advancements in the pre-hospital medical and nursing management of victims of trauma.
The paramedic competition that preceded the conference acted to shed a light on some of the emergency workers who are relied on by their local communities to bring that expertise to the field. With EMS Week to be recognized all next week, from May 19-25, the recent recognition is a timely — and much-appreciated — one.
“It was a great learning experience,” said Pritchard, “and we’re glad to be able to bring something back for the county.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.