By: Lieutenant Christopher Zach, NREMT-P
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department
The VCU paramedic students have worked hard over the last few months to further their knowledge of many different types of disease processes. In addition to countless hours in the classroom, working shifts in the emergency department and various hospital rotations, the students are required to write and act out medical scenarios so that they can have a deeper appreciation of what it’s like to be the patient.
The students continue to progress through their program, and have recently completed the geriatric portion of the class. In order to give them a unique perspective of the lifestyle changes, impact from aging, and daily needs that an elderly patient may have, the students participated in a series of events called “The Geriatric Olympics.” Each event simulated daily activities that senior citizens would normally do with one catch; the students had to be “aged” to go through the activities. They were dressed and restricted in such a way that would emulate what it is like to have some of the more common diseases that the geriatric population may experience.
Students were required to wear gloves and shoes with beans in them to diminish their ability to sense where they step or how they feel an object in their hands, simulating neuropathy. They also had to wrap their knees, elbows, and finger joints to simulate arthritis. To top it off, the students wore lab goggles that were smeared with Vaseline and colored with black dots in the center to simulate a combination of both glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Once they were “aged to perfection”, the students had to go for walks and do simple exercises. Next, they had to pick up a phone and make a doctor’s appointment. Prior to the appointment, they had to read from a prescription bottle and take the correct amount of “medication”. Finally, they had to go to their “doctor’s appointment” (a staff member’s office), discuss medication dose changes, accept their new prescription, and sign a check for their co-pay. Upon leaving the appointment, the students needed to implement the new medication regimen accurately for the remainder of the exercise, stopping to take their “medication” when due. The students very quickly learned how difficult it can be to accomplish these routine daily tasks. By the end of the day, they were exhausted.
The next day, the students took a trip to a local nursing home in order to get to know the residents there and help out with activities and lunch. The VCU students sat and talked to some of the residents during lunch, and afterwards participated in a game of bingo. Students and residents had a great time as they learned from this very unique experience.