The world needs heroes. Not the web-slinging, high-flying kind of heroes but real-world, everyday heroes. Fortunately, healthcare often attracts these kinds of people.
It’s also important to have heroes to share invaluable knowledge in a world where uncertainty and anxiety lead people to question medical experts. This is especially true for healthcare professionals who need to learn new skills and familiarize themselves with life-saving medical technology.
The HEROES program from the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) understands the need for real-world technical education. That’s why the program’s leaders strive to educate Nebraska and the surrounding area in emergency preparedness across a wide range of practical applications.
Why the World Needs HEROES
HEROES (Healthcare and Emergency Responder Organization Education through Simulation) is an interdisciplinary approach to biological, chemical, radiological and natural disaster emergencies led by the UNMC College of Nursing.
Originally founded in 2005 as a response to natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and events like those of September 11, 2001, HEROES focuses on emergency preparedness education and technical medical competency for health profession students and professional providers. The program has helped countless individuals and organizations confront and understand biological concerns like influenza, H1N1, and Ebola, and HEROES continues to spearhead educational efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The more that we taught students about biological containment and PPE,” says HEROES program director Beth Beam in speaking about UNMC’s nationally recognized biocontainment unit, “the more they went out and practiced [safety measures] and told everyone they know…it bolstered public support.”
The HEROES program has been an exceptional teaching tool for Nebraska students and organizations. UNMC experts teach emergency preparedness throughout the state at private institutions and colleges using online resources and a mobile hands-on traveling workspace.
Today, medical response systems have evolved into healthcare coalitions. These coalitions help determine what kind of equipment and technology get used by companies and healthcare professionals, and it’s programs like HEROES that inform educated decision making.
“The beauty of the product we create,” says Beam, “is that we find that people all over the country as well as the world reach out and use our media.”
How HEROES Uses the ISO-POD
The ISO-POD™ by AirBoss is an isolation system designed for temporary transport and housing of patients. ISO-PODs are used to protect healthcare providers from chemical or biological agents and also provide a contained environment for treatment and transport.
COVID-19 brought use of the ISO-POD back into focus, and healthcare professionals all over the globe are interacting with the devices almost daily. The ISO-POD, like any professional medical device, is best utilized with proper training. Luckily, the HEROES program has used an ISO-POD unit for training purposes for years.
“The reason we engage with any device that we share and educate on is because we see that people in Nebraska are needing to know more about it,” explains Beam. “I can tell you that most disaster products have directions for use, but they leave a lot out. We wanted to make sure students understood what [the ISO-POD] was [and] how it worked.”
What’s left out most often, Beam says, are some the clinical components and things you need to think about before you arrive on-scene. Little things like understanding where to position a blanket or how to talk to a patient through a protective barrier improves care and reduces anxiety all-around. Having an ISO-POD on-hand is instrumental in providing exceptional training for students and professionals.
“It’s impossible for students not to have a rich understanding of all of these infection control pieces that we’re all nervous about,” Beam says in regard to having an ISO-POD unit available. “It’s a wonderful tool to have that conversation about who’s doing what, where should you be, how do we hand this kind of patient off?”
HEROES in the Future
Beam says a pandemic changed everything right now as far as going to a clinic or interacting with healthcare is concerned. HEROES continues to keep Nebraska healthcare professionals educated and prepared to deal with pandemic-related concerns.
This means HEROES will likely go back to the basics when looking towards the future, especially in teaching health profession students. Emergency preparedness and knowledge of basic infection components, coupled with a thorough technical proficiency of essential medical devices, will be crucial for students emerging into a post-pandemic landscape.
“My goal would be that we’re as supportive as we can be to make today’s new students in healthcare feel as confident as they can going into patient care. That they can do it and be safe,” Beam expressed. “If they don’t feel safe, they won’t stay in the positions.”