DC-area doctors prepare for coronavirus surge at ICU boot camp

Inside the ICU Mobile Simulation Lab, doctors are trained on ventilators, intubation, personal protective equipment best practices, and other issues common with COVID-19 patients. (Courtesy MedStar Health)

Some D.C.-area doctors who don’t usually work in intensive care units are getting refresher courses in case they’re called to the front lines for coronavirus duty.

“I typically work in the ambulatory surgery center,” said Dr. Steve Luck, an anesthesiologist for MedStar Health.

Luck had just finished MedStar’s intensive care unit boot camp. Inside the ICU Mobile Simulation Lab, he was trained on ventilators, intubation, personal protective equipment best practices, and other issues common with COVID-19 patients, “to just remind me of the skill sets that were needed.”

At MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Dr. Alan Kim, another anesthesiologist, also went through the ICU boot camp.

“Getting a refresher on the ICU training is really helpful, especially when we’re training on mannequins rather than actual patients,” Kim said. “If the mission is patients first, you don’t practice first on patients.”

The high-fidelity mannequins used during the training breathe, have heartbeats, can be given IVs, and can open and close their eyes. They’re in a 40-foot truck that’s similar to a recreational vehicle. It’s equipped with two rooms for simulations and one for debriefing.

“When an emergency comes up like this, we’re ready to go,” said Dr. John Yosaitis, the ICU boot camp director.

“It can go anywhere,” Yosaitis said of the mobile training lab. “We have 10 hospitals and over 300 ambulatory care centers in MedStar, and we take it all over to bring a sim-center, to bring training to the associates.”

Reflecting on how the mobile lab training gives MedStar the flexibility to redirect staff, Kim said it helps make sure every able-bodied person can be put to good use.

“I think this is a great way to expand the workforce tailored to the specific needs of this specific crisis,” Kim said.

Luck believes it’s his duty as a doctor to help colleagues who are working on the front lines in the ICU.

“It’s not even a question about whether I should do this,” Luck said. “This is something I’ve trained my whole life for.”

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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