Paramedic Herman Mendez (left) pumps "Super Hal's" chest with the assistance of REACH air ambulance personnel on Thursday, Oct. 21, during the Pioneers Memorial Hospital Foundation gala in Brawley. | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO
BRAWLEY — In the shadow of the Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District’s women’s health building, an example of the hospital foundation’s bounty was at work in the unveiling of three new high-fidelity simulator mannequins, the first of their kind in the Valley.
As guests gathered for the annual PMH Foundation Gala on Thursday, Oct. 21, the makeshift simulations lab showed the changing face of medical health training in Imperial County.
Pioneers purchased the mannequins through Gaumard Simulators for Health Care Education. The night of the gala three of the district’s four mannequins were set up, with the male and baby simulators loaned by Gaumard.
Chief Nursing Officer Kristi Gillespie said the mannequins will give the Pioneers staff a whole new level of practice. Gillespie added the simulators will not just be for Pioneers but for other agencies such as REACH air ambulance service, local police and fire departments, and even the local schools like Imperial Valley College or San Diego State University-Imperial Valley.
This has been something she had pitched to the hospital in May and was happy to see it all come together this week.
“It’s just going to improve the quality of care to our community,” Gillespie said. “It’s just going to bring us all together, practice all the latest of what is being called the latest in best practices.”
Herman Mendez and Adrian Celaya are both paramedics that see the simulators as a game changer in Valley medicine. Usually, paramedics train with a normal cardiopulmonary resuscitation training dummy without a lot of frills, but the paramedics were happy to see the high-end “super family” of mannequins filled with the latest technology and have much more to offer in terms of realism.
“This is actually next-level stuff,” Celaya said.
“This is next level, especially for here in the Imperial Valley,” Mendez added.
IVC’s nursing program does do “mock codes,” according to nursing student Alex Clemente, but the models the program has are not as interactive as those on display Oct. 21. These are “above the par,” he said.
“Getting this type of practice and pre-exposure before it actually happens on the floor allows us to be comfortable in a situation which might seem hectic, but we will perform well if we have to go through the situation,” Clemente said.
The mannequins are all highly advanced simulators that can move, express emotion, be hooked up to the real hospital equipment, and even have the function to use a voice to express any pain or answer questions with voice commands, according to Pioneers officials. The inner vital organs are fully modeled, and the mannequins will actually track motion with their eyes. The mannequins, or the “super family,” even have their own names: Hal, Suzie, Hal Jr., and Tory.
As an example of the training that will occur, Gillespie described a scenario where a baby comes out in respiratory distress and the nurses need to insert a breathing tube. The mannequin will allow nurses to see how to properly help babies in the same scenario in a way that learning from a book just can’t give them.
“We don’t want their first code to be on an actual patient. We want to give them that actual skill set,” Gillespie said.
Meanwhile, outside in the open lawn, the gala went on, bringing together the community for a night of glitz and glamor under the stars. Shortly after dinner, the main event, the annual live art auction, kicked off bringing a tense but friendly competition to the gala. Sixteen items were auctioned off including paintings, photography and even services like an aerial ride and a gourmet dinner.
The foundation also honored Brawley Union High School student Bella Rebollar with the coveted Jack and Eunice Fleming Memorial Award, which was given for her outstanding work in school and art.
All proceeds that are raised from the Oct. 21 gala will go toward other projects at the Pioneers. In the past, the PMH Foundation has been able to help fund the renovation of the hospital’s pediatric wing and the construction of the Imperial Valley’s first catheter lab. Now those funds have brought the creation of a resource that will more than benefit the Valley community.
“When you help the hospital, you are helping everybody,” PMH Foundation president Shelvie Crittendon said. “It’s not just one part of the community. Everyone is going to have to use the hospital sooner or later and what the heck, you have to give back.”
PMH Chief Executive Officer Larry Lewis said he was pleased to see the gala make a return to an in-person event to continue raising funds for projects like the simulation lab.
“The foundation did it all, they are amazing and they always give us plenty,” Lewis said. “They always think of the community and what’s needed, they always think of the hospital.”
The simulation mannequins all together cost $400,000, according to Lewis, a high price for a job that is filled with high stakes and higher costs.
“It’s humbling that the foundation saw our need, saw our excitement,” Gillespie said. “We’re just so grateful that they’ve invested in this hospital and in our community.”