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BWH Burn Team Experiences Fire Academy Training
Last week, 11 members of the BWH Burn Center found themselves crawling through a dark, smoke-filled hallway towards a fire. Outfitted in full firefighter gear with air masks and oxygen tanks, the team made their way to the flames, getting close enough to feel the intense heat.
Though the exercise was in a fire simulator at the Boston Fire Academy in Quincy, the BWH team experienced the real physical conditions of a fire and some of the emotions that someone trapped inside a burning building may feel.
“I made it only about three or four feet in,” said Ruthanne Vargus, RN, of Tower 8AB. “I was able to get out in a matter of seconds, but if you’re trapped, it must be absolutely horrific.”
Vargas was among care providers from Tower 8 who participated in the event, hosted by the Boston Firefighters Burn Foundation and Boston Fire Academy. By spending a day walking in firefighters’ boots, the care team gained a better understanding of what a burn patient has endured prior to arriving at the hospital.
“This collaboration is intended to give each side the experience of what the other goes through as it relates to burn patients, fire situations and burn care,” said Matt Quin, MSN, RN, nursing director of the Burn/Trauma ICU and step-down unit. “We now have a greater understanding of the psychological trauma patients have been through before they come through our doors.”
The BWH team also learned about fire safety and crawled through a maze wearing blackened masks to simulate the experience of crawling through a burning building where smoke limits visibility. But the most eye-opening experience of the day was getting up close with a fire.
“I think it will help me in patient care because I have a better understanding of what patients have been through before their injuries,” said Vargus. “The post-traumatic stress must be huge. We want to make sure we care for these patients emotionally in addition to treating their wounds.”
Participants also earned an even greater respect and understanding for what firefighters endure. “It’s amazing that this is their full time job to put that heavy equipment on every single day and not know what they’re getting into when they go to a fire or if they’re going to return home safely,” said Jennifer Wall, PA-C. “I know I could not do that.”
The BWH Burn team is also offering firefighters the opportunity to observe the post-burn wound care patients receive at the hospital. “We hope to have them here to witness the patients’ experience after firefighters save them, from the treatment plan to the dressing changes,” Quin said.