Sleepless nights, high drama and a gruelling schedule is what a group of NMMU students are experiencing in a non-stop 48-hour shift as they are put through their paces of what it means to be an emergency medical care officer.
The group of 22 second-year bachelor degree in emergency medical care (EMC) students have been tasked with a mammoth trial as they participate in the annual Masiphakameni Challenge, intended to test their mental abilities, strength, willpower and character.
Former paramedic and thirdyear EMC student Ashley Braddon, 29, of Port Elizabeth, who is part of the organising committee for the challenge, said the 48-hour shift was aimed at equipping students with the necessary skills needed in the field.
“This challenge is more scenario based and will test students’ willpower and character . . . it is not just search and rescue, but includes clinical practices as well,” Braddon said.
In their first year of the EMC course offered through the department of emergency medical care at NMMU, students are required to take part in the 30-hour Vasbyt Challenge, which incorporates a number of exercises focused on search and rescue.
“The Masiphakameni Challenge includes more realistic scenarios and includes responding to gunshot wounds, anginas [heart attacks] and nature reserve rescues,” Braddon said, adding that students would be put through their paces in 12 scenarios.
Some of the third-year students who are facilitating the challenge will also be role-playing as patients in “real-life scenarios”.
Yesterday, students had to respond to a reported heart attack at Hobie Beach and then transport the “patient” to a makeshift hospital, where they had to fill in all the necessary documents and do a handover to a doctor.
Last night, the aspiring paramedics had to complete a search-and-rescue scenario at Sundays River, while tonight they will be expected to respond to a rescue at Maitlands.
“They will also have to attend to a fire scenario, where they are expected to go into the venue and use the left-handed search technique,” Braddon said.
This technique is used when firefighters enter a burning building with dense smoke. They crouch down on their knees while using their left hand to guide them along a wall while sweeping the ground before them with their right hand in search of victims.
The challenge, which started yesterday at 7am, will conclude tomorrow at 7am.