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BENNINGTON — For Vermont Technical College's paramedicine program students, live patients and an active operating room has been the basis for intubation training.

This is the first time Southwestern Vermont Medical Center has allowed the students to work on live patients — its traditionally practiced on mannequins. About 99 percent of patients allow students to practice on them, under supervision and with a consent form, said E. Michael Tarazi, anesthesiologist with Anesthesiology Associates of Bennington and chair of SVMC's Department of Anesthesiology.

"They've all done a great job," Tarazi said. "When they come to the operating room they already have some idea."

Students must perform 60 to 80 intubations on mannequins ranging in size and situation — airway blockage, tongue swelling, etc — before practicing on a live patient.

"Students are learning airway management that involves mask ventilation to connect to an oxygen source," Tarazi said. "It's beneficial because once they become paramedics they are the first line responders and [patients will] need to be intubated on site. It's important for them to learn the skill because it could be life saving."

He added that anyone getting anesthesiology must also get intubated.

Dr. Daniel Perregaux is a emergency department physician at SVMC, medical director of emergency medical services in southwestern Vermont and of the Vermont Technical College's Paramedicine Program as well as instructs at the college. He approached Dr. Tarazi in 2015 about partnering with the college.

"[The education department] was all for it from day one," Perregaux said. "[Tarazi's] first question was `When can they start?'"

The students have practiced at the hospital for two years now.

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"The doctors at SVMC are committed to providing medical education to others," said Trey Dobson, SVMC chief medical officer and medical director of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Putnam Physicians. "We feel strongly that it is a physician's professional responsibility to teach skills and impart a knowledge base to students in a variety of healthcare fields in order to continue safe, high quality patient care in our community."

John Wright of Arlington and a student in the paramedicine program has completed his required five intubations on live patients, but plans to practice more. He's been an emergency medical technician (EMT) for four years and said he felt that the paramedic program was the next step.

"The [operating room] staff up there are fantastic they're always encouraging," Wright said. "You would do the intubation then kind of, during the surgery shadow the anesthetist and observe the surgeries in general, which is a great experience in itself."

On Thursdays, Perregaux is with the students for about eight hours doing labs and lectures — as his first full time teaching gig.

"It's really been rewarding seeing a student come from a basic knowledge of EMS, going through our program and coming away with advanced skills and knowledge, to the degree that these students are really progressing," he said. "These students are blossoming and they're going to make great paramedics."

When a student wishes to practice, they contact a scheduler in the operating room to set up a time. Perregaux said the more practice they have, the better they'll be at it.

Vermont Technical College has campuses in Bennington, Williston and Randolph.

Reach staff writer Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471 or @MC_McGeeney.


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