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UC medical students hone first response skills

First-year med students complete two-week course to master CPR, tourniquet use and other skills

Anthony Sara had some basic lifesaving training but it wasn’t as comprehensive as the skills he honed during his first two weeks at the University of Cincinnati.

As part of first-responder training, all first-year medical students at the UC College of Medicine are required to master a set of skills they can use to assess and stabilize a person in distress until emergency medical services arrive. The medical students become CPR-certified but they also know how to stop life-threatening bleeding with a tourniquet or wound packing and how to stabilize a cervical spine or apply a cervical collar. They can assist with supplemental oxygen or positive pressure ventilation. The training program has been in place at the college for a decade.

“The training I received at UC was much more thorough and extensive,” says Sara, a first-year medical student. “I was not confident I could have handled an emergency situation before, but now I feel I am capable of tackling a first responder scenario. I really love how this class was the first in our medical school curriculum.

“We learned how to respond to a wide variety of scenarios from cardiac arrest, shock, fractures, bleeds, mass casualty incidents, emergency deliveries and much more,” says Sara, who grew up in Syria and the United Arab Emirates and then attended the University of California, Davis, for a degree in genetics and genomics. “I learned how to evaluate patients from a first responder’s perspective, infants to senior citizens. It was practically a rapid-fire EMT course.”

Sara is also a graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s special master’s degree program in physiology. 

First-year medical student Anthony Sara practices techniques during a CPR training session. In the background medical student Shannon Gray watches as does instructor Conal Rouche, MD.  Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand.

First-year medical student Anthony Sara practices techniques during a CPR training session. In the background medical student Shannon Gray watches as does instructor Conal Rouche, MD. Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand.

Veronica Calhoun, a physician assistant in the UC Department of Emergency Medicine and course director of the first-responder training program, says the curriculum and length of the course — it occurs over a two-week period — have remained unchanged. However, in response to the pandemic, lectures have gone to an online format with a chat function for students and instructors. Training sessions are in-person but conducted in groups of no more than four individuals including an instructor with masks and appropriate social distancing.

“Despite limited face-to-face interaction, the students have told me that they’ve enjoyed the course,” says Calhoun. “Our students have a wide range of knowledge and skills, ranging from those who have never taken anatomy and physiology to those who have spent several years practicing emergency medical services caring for patients in the community.”

“It’s always a challenge to aim for the right level of knowledge so that we don’t overwhelm those who are hearing the information for the first time and yet also continue to engage and educate those who are already certified as EMTs or paramedics,” explains Calhoun. “I believe that we’ve attained that balance. The students consistently ask higher-level questions showing that they have not only understood the material but are applying it."

Scott O'Leary, instructor, College of Medicine students (left-to-right) Resha Kodali, Anna Schwarz and Rahul Chandwani in CPR training.

Scott O'Leary, instructor, College of Medicine students (left-to-right) Resha Kodali, Anna Schwarz and Rahul Chandwani in CPR training. Photo by Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand.

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Resha Kodali, a first-year medical student, says the first responder course struck the appropriate balance between good training and making students feel safe in their small groups.  Large bottles of hand sanitizer and masks were readily available during the sessions.

“I have not had prior first-responder training, so it was really interesting to have this hands-on, clinical exposure so early in the medical curriculum,” says Kodali, who is from Charlotte, North Carolina, and a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as well as UC’s special master’s degree program in physiology. “Thanks to this course, I do feel better prepared to assist if I stumbled upon an emergency situation.

“Even with the limited time for in-person skills sessions, I have found that I’ve learned a great deal in two weeks,” says Kodali.

Danielle Johnson, a first-year medical student from Indianapolis, says the first response training was a great segue into medical school. 

“My friends at other medical schools are not as fortunate to experience a first responders course and as they were only required to enter into school with a CPR certification and began their semesters with normal coursework,” says Johnson, who graduated from Indiana University with an environmental health degree. “Having first responders training at the start of our curriculum has made me knowledgeable and provided me with skills on how to assess a situation quickly. It is incredible how much information we learned in two weeks that can potentially help save someone's life.” 

Featured image shows Esther Iyanobor, first year medical student, in CPR training. Jack Saczawa and Nina Bredemeier working in the background. Photo by Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand.

First-year medical student Danielle Johnson shown in CPR training in the UC College of Medicine.

First-year medical student Danielle Johnson shown in CPR training in the UC College of Medicine. Photo by Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand.

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