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AdventHealth develops new ECMO simulation training

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AdventHealth Central Florida’s Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) program became one of the largest and most in-demand units during the pandemic, and as the program celebrates its eight-year mark, it’s improving and setting the standard for quality, whole-person care for Central Florida residents. A new simulation training that replicates a real-life scenario is teaching ECMO specialists and AdventHealth’s Flight Team how to effectively work together to treat patients on an ECMO machine, a sophisticated piece of equipment with a pump, oxygenator and tubes that serves as a form of life support to ease the toll on the heart and lungs for patients recovering from severe medical conditions.

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Deidra Fellows, AdventHealth Orlando’s mechanical cardiac support clinical specialist (MCS), spearheads the ECMO programs in the Central Florida Division. She has worked with a group of ECMO specialists, who are highly trained critical care nurses and respiratory therapists, to complete training with the simulation department to become ECMO simulation facilitators. At AdventHealth, 65% of ECMO patients survive, which is higher than the national average of 55%.

"I am passionate about the work we do that saves lives that just a few years ago may not have been saved, to send people to their families, not only alive but with a good quality of life,” said Fellows. “Those things are now achievable due to technological advancements for the heart and lung failure population.”

Fellows’ newest project aims to train AdventHealth’s Emergency Services team to transport patients and care for them from beginning to end.

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Recently, the team had their first ECMO simulation training. AdventHealth's flight team and ECMO specialists worked together as they went through a close-to-real-life scenario. The ECMO specialists gave a full report to the flight team about the patient, a mannequin. It was all hands on deck as they attached the mannequin to an ECMO machine and moved the mock patient on a stretcher. They pushed the stretcher swiftly through the hospital, with someone up front warning others to make way. As they made it out to the helipad, the team loaded the mannequin into the helicopter, and one of the ECMO specialists geared up to take their place next to the faux patient. Learning how to load and unload ECMO patients on trucks and helicopters as well as everything in between teaches them how to work together in order to perform the most efficient and safest transports.

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With transports, AdventHealth currently assists not only sister hospitals, but hospitals throughout Central Florida and all the way down to Jamaica. The team has flown people from other facilities to AdventHealth for transplants and vice versa. This simulation training will be the first of many because there seems to be a need in the entire country, as well as an unmet need right here in the Central Florida area. The program plans to continue to help and grow out into the community to meet these needs.

“I have an enormous sense of pride in this program and to see ECMO specialists go from assisting perfusion and taking care of these patients to actually rescuing the patients at the bedside is incredibly motivating,” said Fellows. “I am passionate about the possibilities of growth for our ECMO/MCS program here at AdventHealth and the highly skilled and motivated team that will propel this program forward.”

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