December 14, 2015

Jerry: Going wild for medicine

Emergency medicine rotation trains students for wilderness environment

Medical students carry a mock patient to Survival Flight helicopter

Physicians have to be ready for any medical emergency. That goes to the extreme when it happens in a non-sterile environment, like the great outdoors. When M4 Jerry heard the Wilderness Medicine rotation was “the best elective ever in all four years of medical school,” he thought why not?

Below he talks about the day his 40 hours in the classroom prepared him to survive.

“We were told to expect anything and everything. Before the event, we divided up into groups to manage different cases through a team-based approach. I was on the triage team along with three other team members and was also given the responsibility of overseeing case management after each patient has been triaged. Everyone did an amazing job following protocol and really made the process flow smoothly, which made my responsibilities much easier as well.

“The topics covered in the classroom prepared us well. Being able to practice procedures like placing chest tubes and performing a tracheotomy in the SIM lab earlier in the month was also helpful.

“I think getting our feet wet in a practice simulation like this one will benefit us as physicians in the future, being able to more calmly assess a situation and manage it accordingly.

A majority of times, we talk through scenarios in a very low stress, no-risk setting. In the simulation, we're forced to rely on our own knowledge and the expertise of our team members to make life and death decisions on the spot.

Jerry, U-M medical student

“Knowing when and how to triage, asking a focused history, practicing medicine in acute settings, managing teams and coordinating efforts: these are all things I've learned and see myself applying in a clinical setting, whether it be in the wild, on the streets of Ann Arbor, or in the hospital.

“The highlight of the day for me was definitely having the opportunity to call dispatch and maintain communication with the Survival Flight helicopter. Before it is able to land, the pilot has to make sure the surrounding environment is safe. As a team, we were required to watch for potential hazards (loose items, bikers, hikers, etc.) and communicate that to the pilot (all of which were under strict supervision of course). The experience was totally unreal. I was thrilled to have been picked for the role. It was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“Being in a place like Michigan, you get exposure to almost everything and even to things you didn't know existed. I participated in this experience because it was something I had never done before, and I wanted to have the skillset before graduating medical school. Now I also have some cool stories to tell.”