News / Edmonton

One-of-a-kind ambulance simulator trains Edmonton paramedic students for the workforce

The simulator, which consists of an ambulance and driving component, is unique in how realistic it is

NAIT student Jana Wanat said the school's ambulance simulator has helped her build confidence as she prepares for the workforce.

Kevin Tuong/For Metro

NAIT student Jana Wanat said the school's ambulance simulator has helped her build confidence as she prepares for the workforce.

When paramedic student Jana Wanat first stepped into the rumbling cockpit of NAIT's new ambulance simulator, she knew she was in the right place. 

“If I swerve, they’ll feel it, so it’s totally realistic,” she said, gripping the simulator’s mock steering wheel.

Keith Weller, the chair of NAIT's Primary Care Paramedic Program, said the simulator is one of the first of its kind in Canada, and will give students a taste of the high-stress career before they're thrust into real life and death situations.

The unit simulates both driving an ambulance and working on a patient in the back, and lets students drive in an emergency situation and react to real-time traffic challenges, such as pedestrians crossing the street.

It also moves, shakes, simulates different roads and weather conditions, and has working lights, a gearshift, lights and sirens.  

“It has everything they would expect in a real world setting,” Weller said of the teaching tool, which was used for the first time for this year's class.

“We wanted to make sure our students are prepared to be out in the real world,” he added. “We want to mirror industry and be ready for them to go out on the road without any issues.”

While there are other driving simulators out there, Weller says this is the first to be as comprehensive as it is, complete with windows that show urban terrain via digital video.

Until recently paramedic students didn't drive an ambulance until they entered the industry, and Wanat said getting an advance taste helped her build confidence.

“It sounds weird to hear, but there’s a bit of an adrenaline rush to this job … In scenarios and doing labs, even though it’s just in the classroom, that stress comes quite quickly,” she said.

“The driving simulator is different, because you’re driving around and kind of feel like it’s a video game … But with this you’ve got people walking across the street, cars coming through the intersection, every day hazards that you don’t really think about,” she said.

“Aside from the real thing, it’s the next best thing.”

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