Simbulance joins training program for Harnett County EMS

Harnett County EMS unveiled its new, state-of-the-art ambulance simulator, the Simbulance (SIM-1) at the school of osteopathic medicine last week. SIM-1 is the first simulation ambulance in the area to allow paramedics to have a mobile ambulance utilized as a dedicated training environment.  

“The unit is a joint partnership between Dunn Emergency Services, Harnett County Emergency Services, and Campbell University,” said  Harnett County EMS Assistant Chief of Training, West Barefoot. “We have many providers who come to us without previous hands-on field experience. This mobile training unit will allow pre-hospital providers an opportunity to learn in a simulated environment using state of the art training equipment.”  

County EMS and Campbell University’s medical simulation center have been working together since 2015, and the vision to add an ambulance to the training resources had been in existence for some time.  

This fall, Chief Gary Whitman of the Dunn Emergency Services had an ambulance they were going to retire from service, so he approached the county with the idea of donating it to train providers throughout out the entire county.  Larry Smith, EMS director for Harnett County, gladly accepted and gained approval to pay for the new look and retro fitting of the unit as well as the maintenance and insurance for the vehicle as it takes on its new role.

“All of this is about patient outcomes,” said Dr. Jim Powers, interim dean for the school of osteopathic medicine.  “To have a county committed to doing everything they can to train their providers, so the residents of Harnett County will get the level of care usually found in an urban community speaks to the dedication of all the providers involved.  It is very rare to find a smaller county with a resource like this to offer in training – it is really impressive.”

“Campbell’s mission is to train physicians and providers to serve underserved, rural communities, so this is a perfect fit and natural partnership between our staff and the county. County transports often take longer, and we want to help make sure their providers are the best.”

Dr. Sean Ray, county EMS Medical Director, said this type of training equipment brings the county’s practices into the current decade.  The simbulance is a retired Dunn Emergency Services Type III box ambulance. It contains a simulated oxygen tank system that uses compressed air, standard stretcher to be able to load and unload a weighted mannequin, and allows technicians to experience the space constraints of an ambulance.  Campbell provides the EMS learners with access to high fidelity mannequins that replicate numerous medical, cardiac, or traumatic emergencies using the computer controlled life-like simulation device for use in the moving ambulance.  

“For example, we can monitor how well the providers are doing CPR,” explained Brian Mann, director of simulation education for the medical school.  “Everything is recorded.  We can track, see trends, and gather statistical data to help us educate and improve protocols.  Failures in communication, vital signs they may have missed – are all reviewed in the debrief playback of the recording.”

“Over the past five years, the program has evolved to include training officers to be good supervisors, too, on how facilitate learning in a positive, safe environment.  The goal is to make mistakes here in simulation and then retrain,” Mann explained.

Scott Phillips, deputy chief of Dunn, has participated in some of the collaborative trainings and affirms the value this Simbulance will add.

“I have helped teach using the mannequins, and they are a a great tool for us to do the high risk procedures with the medical director present to oversee the training and correct any errors and make improvements in this safe environment,” Phillips explained.  “Now, we can actually ride down the road and practice.  It is a great tool for new staff coming in – a lot of our students have never been on an ambulance before.  We have the potential for an entire simulation from on scene, through transport, and then to hospital care by using this unit combined with Campbell’s simulation lab.”

Harnett County EMS Division Chief Alex Belanovich said, “None of this would be possible, without the great partnership between Campbell University, Dunn Emergency Services, Harnett County Administration and Harnett County Emergency Services. This unit will also be used throughout Harnett County to aid in pre-hospital medical education with all of the Fire/EMS departments throughout Harnett County.”

Learn more about the Simulation Center at: