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Ala. EMS Students Practice Skills on Cadavers

The News Courier, Athens, Ala.

Health and nursing students throughout the area got the chance to liven their education with a unique experience—training on cadavers.

Calhoun Community College's cadaver lab took place Tuesday, Wednesday and today. Calhoun is one of only a few two-year colleges that provide allied health students the chance to practice medical procedures and examinations on human subjects.

"The cadavers provide valuable insight to our students into how the human body actually works," said Bret McGill, dean of health sciences at Calhoun. "... This very unique opportunity is also allowing students to practice life-saving skills, such as advanced airway technique, on actual human bodies instead of the simulated mannequins we have in our labs."

Students from Wallace State and Northeast Alabama community colleges also participated. Carley Nicholas, a Wallace State paramedic student, was among a group Tuesday that practiced intubating on a cadaver that gave them a chance to see the lungs inflate.

"This gives us a lot more practice and preparation before going into the field," Nicholas said. "If we didn't have this, we'd be going from practicing on mannequins directly to intubating patients in the field, which is fine, but it's not the same education you'll get through this."

Nicholas said her school does its best to provide high-quality mannequins that breathe and have lung sounds, but after five years as an EMT with Cullman County EMS, she said it's just not possible to get this close to the real thing.

"You can't recreate life and real-life situations," Nicholas said. "These cadavers are more pliable and realistic. It's nothing compared to a mannequin."

In another part of the lab, students got to practice an intraosseous procedure in which they place a needle into the shoulder of a cadaver. Health care professionals also joined in the fun, including a local dentist who conducted a class on forensic identification using the teeth of at least one of the cadavers.

"Because the experience is being facilitated by trained health care professionals, our students are able to ask questions and to participate in meaningful discussions on-site, which further expands their skills and understanding of the concepts they are learning."

Cadavers for the lab were provided by the Medical Education and Research Institute in Memphis, Tennessee. Calhoun received grant funding to cover the college's cost to transport the cadavers and partnered with Alabama EMS Region One on the project.

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