Rural Medicine Track Returns to Baggs, Wyoming

On my third trip to Baggs, Wyoming with the Rural and Wilderness Medicine Track, I worked with RVUCOM students from Class of 2022 on several simulation scenarios. My role involved helping to moulage victims and take photos of students in action. It is always interesting to see how different each class is, with this year’s students approaching each disaster with a sense of calm assurance.

During the first scenario, students responded to an explosion at an oil and gas facility over forty miles from the nearest town. With sirens blaring, they arrived on-scene in an ambulance to find victims suffering from a variety of life-threatening injuries. Brenden Starkey, OMS II, who was chosen as incident commander, directed his peers to fan out and search for victims, which was not as simple as it sounded. Students had to assess the environmental hazards and other potential threats, work in confined spaces, and deal with distractions, all while triaging patients and determining how to transport them to the distant hospitals. Even though I knew it was not real, the smoke, sirens, and screaming for help put me on edge. There was a sense of panic in the air but the students were calm and organized during the chaos.

Another scenario (and a favorite of mine) took place during a rodeo on a ranch complete with actual bull riders! There was a real sense of community, with families coming out to participate as victims and as performers in the rodeo. Students not only experienced the community aspect of being a rural doctor but also being a physician-as first-responder at the scene of an accident.

The final scenario was a shooting at an elementary school. This simulation, while emotionally challenging, was a valuable experience for students. Working closely with law enforcement and Little Snake River EMS, students moved victims out of the school and to safety. The shooter was also injured and lying handcuffed near the treatment area; students were forced to confront their feelings about providing treatment to the shooter. “[This] was an opportunity to expand upon traditional medical school teaching to learn about pre-hospital care through simulation,” said Alex Knippenberg, OMS II. “I could not have imagined a better way to wrap up my first year of medical school than going to Baggs with my trackmates.”

“Our trip to Baggs is one that I will never forget!” said Emily Schultz, OMS II. “We had to take care of patients with a variety of different injuries including severe burns, head trauma, fractures, internal and external lacerations, cardiac arrest, and even gunshot wounds.” For SD Schultz, the simulations were not only incredibly realistic, but also relevant to the emergency situations that physicians face in rural areas. “In our spare time, we practiced by placing IVs, intubating [simulators] and suturing. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to work with the physicians, [Little Snake River EMS], and civilians. After this weekend trip, I feel more equipped to handle emergent medical situations. I am thankful to RVU for providing such a hands-on experience!”

It was great to be a part of this annual training exercise and I think it gets better each year! Everyone worked hard to give the students an unforgettable experience and a real taste of what it is like to serve as a rural physician with limited resources. I am already looking forward to next year.

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