Central Florida's 24-hour Emergency Care and Specialty Referral Center

Helping Paramedic Students

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Each summer, Veterinary Healthcare Associates serves as a clinical lab site for Polk State College Paramedic students to practice intubation techniques. It is extremely important that graduates of a Paramedic training program are capable of providing advanced life-saving measures to patients in emergency situations. One of the most critical skills that a Paramedic must possess is the ability to intubate, or pass a tube into a patient’s trachea (windpipe.) Unfortunately, sometimes Paramedics respond to situations where small children or infants are in serious condition. Because these students would rarely have the opportunity to practice this skill in a training scenario, it would be very difficult for them to perform this task once they are working in their clinical field.

Most people would be surprised to realize that placing an endotracheal (or breathing) tube in a person is very similar to placing an endotracheal tube in a cat. When the tube is introduced, humans and felines alike have what is called laryngospasm, or spasmodic closing of the larynx, which makes passing the tube extremely difficult. The larynx is the part of the respiratory tract between the pharynx and the trachea which has walls of cartilage and muscle and containing the vocal cords. This delicate tissue is especially sensitive to swelling or inflammation, and looks very similar in humans as it does in cats. Essentially, intubating a cat is the nearest substitute that a Paramedic student can get to intubating a small child or infant. Participating in the lab allows students the opportunity to practice the skill in a controlled environment, which will better prepare them to perform when there is a critical need.

The lab is held on site at VHA, and the risk is very minimal to the cats. The cats used for the lab are sedated and provided with appropriate pain control for this minor procedure. Typically, our own VHA employees volunteer their own cats to participate in the lab. Because the VHA staff understands the need for emergency care of people and animals, there is a great deal of respect and enthusiasm shown for the students and the lab. We look forward to hosting the students each year and contributing to their learning experience, as well as sharing the animal side of emergency medicine with them.

As a previous graduate of the Polk State College EMS Program’s Paramedic program, I had the opportunity to train on many different skills.  One of a paramedics most important and difficult skills to master is the ability to perform endotracheal intubation. This is the place of a breathing tube into a patient’s trachea to secure their airway, keeping a patient from getting vomit into their lungs and assist in their ventilations. As a paramedic I am placed in emergency situations where people of all ages, including infants and children, need the above treatment performed. During my time as a paramedic student, I had the opportunity to train in endotracheal intubation of infants during a clinical lab setting in which we intubated cats. Cats have an anatomy almost identical to that of a child and behave in the same ways during intubation. This clinical was performed at a veterinary clinic like VHA.  Without this training opportunity myself, as well as almost every paramedic would not have a opportunity to see what this live anatomy looks like as well as how it behaves and the techniques needed to perform this high stress skill. Greg Miller — Firefighter/Paramedic

Compassion

Our culture is built on a heartfelt compassion for our patients and their owners. We are animal people with a passion for helping others and healing pets. We embrace and understand the human-animal bond and empathize with our pet parents’ concerns for their most cherished family members. We care deeply, and we show that with our words and actions. We are here for both of them, owners and pets--that is the VHA Way. It matters not how much we know, unless they first know how much we care.

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