Published August 30, 2012
It looked like a scene from a reality television program. There was an apparent victim, in a modest apartment, slouched over a place setting situated on a small round table. Three people, all in their mid-to-late teens, entered the room, assessed the situation and began to help. Roughly 20 others, all around the same age, watched the events unfold on a projection screen in the Behling Simulation Center in Farber Hall on the UB South Campus.
As real as it might have appeared, the event was a simulation prepared for Naval Sea Cadets taking part in a medical training module held at UB earlier this summer.
“It’s as close as you can bring one to the realities of emergency care, especially teens,” said Michael N. Hatton, clinical associate professor and director of UB’s Urgent Care Clinic. “This is the same technology as the armed forces use to simulate battle conditions.”
The Naval Sea Cadet Corps is a youth education program operated by the U.S. Navy that’s designed for kids between the ages of 8-17 interested in the Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard. Hatton points out that while the program is geared for those considering a career in the military, its scope goes beyond military applications.
“This program teaches self-responsibility, self-leadership and self-motivation,” said Hatton, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. “I was a cadet myself and the program provided me with the tools needed to enter a professional pursuit like mine.”
Hatton’s experience is perhaps being played out by one of the cadets in the medical module. Sixteen-year-old John Ross of Long Island says he’s not sure if he will join the military after high school, but he doesn’t hesitate when speaking of the program’s value.
“I’m learning about confidence and leadership,” he said. “I’d recommend the program to anyone, not just those who want to go into the Navy.”
The corps is divided into two age-based groups, separating the younger and older participants. After basic training, cadets have an opportunity to participate in advanced training. The medical unit offered at UB was one of four modules presented in Buffalo, including photojournalism, culinary arts and petty officer leadership. While in Buffalo, the group of about 100 cadets from across the country lived aboard the USS Little Rock in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.
“It’s not like living at home,” said 16-year-old Brittany Couso, of Long Island. “But I like it. There is a real sense of family.”
Hatton said all the job functions of the Navy, from fixed wing aircraft, to Seal training, to diving are offered to cadets as one-week training modules held at various locations across the country.
“We’re offering these four modules in Buffalo because we have local experts who can administer to the demands of those fields,” said Hatton.
Elizabeth R. Hatton, clinical assistant professor in the departments Oral Diagnostic Sciences and Family Medicine, who also serves as medical director for the Sea Cadets in Buffalo, ran the medical program.
“All the cadets have done certifications this week in CPR, AED and first aid,” said Elizabeth Hatton, who is married to Michael Hatton. “They’ve had a suturing tutorial, did some physical diagnoses, practiced getting information from patients seeking treatment and have taken tours of the gross anatomy lab and medical school. Today’s simulation brings everything they’ve learned together.”
The Hattons, with their knowledge of the sea cadet program, knew the Behling Simulation Center was a perfect location for training.
“Our son, James, is taking the petty officer leadership module of the program,” said Michael Hatton. “We have four other kids who were either in the military or actively involved in the military. So we understand the value of the opportunities for these young people and knew that we had a facility on campus that would be a perfect fit. What these cadets need for their medical training is what we do every day here with our work and teaching responsibilities.”
The Behling Simulation Center, which officially opened in September 2011, uses a variety of simulation methodologies for education, evaluation and research. Michael Hatton said that conversations with Jeffrey W. Myers, director of the Behling Center, led to getting dental students involved in urgent care scenarios. The dental students, and students in all five of the university’s health sciences schools, have their simulation exercises combined with lectures and debriefings. Students learn in the same way they’ll work as professionals in their communities. The cadets, meantime, were involved in a microcosm of that experience, learning techniques that can be applied as citizens in their communities.
“We prepared four catastrophe scenarios: a sick relative, a bike accident, an allergic reaction and a traumatic head injury,” said Michael Hatton.
Attending to each scenario, the cadets have no knowledge and no tools beyond what is immediately available to them.
“They have to figure out what to do,” said Michael Hatton. “They check for consciousness; they check the airway; they call for help; they have to ask if they’re in an environment where they can safely provide assistance. And they have to use effective communication skills.”
The cadets enter the scenarios calmly, but the life-like simulation can easily increase stress levels.
“It felt so real that I forgot it was a training scenario,” said Tyler Curtis, a 17-year-old high school student from Hamilton. “It was like reciting a line when at first I asked, ‘Mrs. Jones. Are you all right?’ But after that first minute, I was trying to talk to Mrs. Jones as though she was really my neighbor.”
Michael Hatton, however, stressed to cadets during their debriefing that they should ask themselves whether they’re composed enough to help before actually beginning to help, suggesting that if in doubt, cadets take their own pulse before taking a victim’s pulse.
“That’s fundamental,” said cadet Ross. “You must be calm and see things objectively.”
The scenarios and companion discussion marked the end of the cadets’ week-long medical module at UB.
“It seems to be an unqualified success,” said Michael Hatton. “And another example of how UB extends itself into the wider community.”