It started as a quality improvement project in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Advocate Children’s Hospital, but since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it’s evolved into much more.
“We wanted to be better prepared to insert breathing tubes into patients with narrow or difficult airways,” explained nurse practitioner Sandy McIntyre. “We found we were being reactive instead of proactive in some cases, and we needed a better plan.”
Because of the generosity of donors, the PICU team was able to purchase four advanced airway simulation training tools.
“Airway task trainers simulate the anatomy of a person’s airway. They provide an immersive and interactive way for us to train by placing intubation tubes, working with difficult airways and learning alternative ways to help patients breathe when they can’t do it on their own, including ways we don’t learn in basic airway courses.”
The airway task trainers come in different sizes – infant, pediatric and adult – so team members can practice for a variety of scenarios.
“This type of training allows us to practice and perfect our skills in a safe environment without putting patients at risk,” said Sandy. “We can learn from our mistakes, so there’s less chance of something going wrong in a real emergency situation.”
Most importantly, the airway task trainers will result in better patient outcomes.
“Our clinicians are more comfortable in time-limited situations because they’ve perfected their skills. In addition, we have access to the airway task trainers at all times. We can practice every day.”
The devices have become even more critical with the arrival of COVID-19.
“We’re using the trainers more than we ever imagined we would. We’re learning how to place new pathways to help patients breathe. We can also practice with all the extra protective equipment we’re wearing – masks, face shields and goggles,” said Sandy. “And if a patient has COVID-19, or is suspected to have it, there’s a protective hood around them too, which can make it difficult to see what we’re doing. That’s no longer an issue because we’re practicing so frequently.”
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