STARS air medical crew from Sask. wins first place at competition in Florida

November 9, 2022, 10:44 am
Sierra D'Souza Butts, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Left are, paramedic Chris Fay of STARS Air Ambulance and Kevin Easton nurse of STARS Air Ambulance on scene at the Air Medical Transport Simulation Competition in Tampa, Florida on Oct. 24 to 26.

Members of STARS air medical crew from Saskatchewan recently won the Association of Air Medical Services’ (AAMS) on Oct. 26, at the Air Medical Transport Simulation Competition in Tampa, Florida.

Out of the nine teams from across North America, the duo won the SIM Cup for the 2022 Air Medical Transport Simulation Competition.

“The competition was intense,” said Regina-based paramedic Chris Fay of STARS Air Ambulance of Saskatchewan.

“This is the 17th time STARS has been going and we’ve always placed in the top three. There definitely was some pressure going down there, but it was a lot of fun.

“They put on a great competition and really push you, they had teams from all over North America competing, which can be a little intimidating realizing you’re going up against teams from across North America.”

Fay, a paramedic, and Regina-based nurse Kevin Easton, were picked to represent STARS from all of STARS’s bases in Canada, which includes Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The duo was also the only Canadian team in this year’s competition.

“It’s quite an elaborate process to be able to go down there for the competition and represent STARS internally,” said Fay.

“Every base has its own competition and the winner from each base goes to an organizational one.

“From there, each base enters their team and then we compete amongst ourselves. Then the winner of that gets to go down there for the competition.”

The competition started on Monday Oct. 24, where teams from North America had to complete preliminary scenarios on a big stage in front of a panel of judges, and a live AAMS audience.

The scenarios involved working in real situations, while demonstrating skills that paramedics and nurses use on the job.

“There was two preliminary scenarios on the Monday, from there the top three teams get into the finals where they have to complete multiple scenarios from there,” he said.

In the final scenario on the last day of the competition, Easton and Fay had to navigate through a case involving five patients.

“The first rule of SIM competition is that they’re not going to do everyday basic things because everyone is good at that,” Fay said.

“The rule is they’re going to do something extravagant, an almost never going to happen type of case.

“This scenario was a car accident that had two patients in the vehicle who ended up striking a couple other people. In total there were five patients, one of them was pregnant with triplets, and there were also very distracting patients on the stage whose job was to be distracting, basically not following any sort of direction through the whole thing and yelling a lot.

“We had to deal with the pregnant lady who was very sick, then they just kept bringing in patients when you’re sort of at your limit.

“They brought in a child who was vomiting, we had to manage their airway, then just as you’re getting that figured out, they brought in an adult who was having difficulty breathing, he had chest trauma so you had to deal with that.

“Then there was one other patient that we had to deal with. I think the theme of it was trying to overwhelm you with some critical patients and see how you do.”

Fay said thanks to the training and support from STARS, he and Easton felt prepared for the competition.

“It was exciting. I still feel like a small Regina city boy who got to go represent North America, it was pretty cool,” said Fay.

“We felt well prepared, we have a great education system here and we were well supported by our colleagues. We had bit of an entourage going down there with fellow nurses and paramedics and physicians to support us which was nice.

“We also did a lot of training here and a lot of scenario practice. At the end, it just shows that STARS is up there with all the other teams across North America, and with the quality of service we provide, that it holds true throughout.

“The really interesting part down there, that I took away from the whole experience, was the amount of respect STARS has from organizations that I would’ve thought had no idea who we are.

“But, we’ve been going down there so much that everyone is starting to realize who we are. There was a lot of comments like, ‘oh you’re with STARS no pressure,’ we just kind of laughed.

“I’m from Regina, I’ve worked all over Saskatchewan and I know Kevin has been all over Saskatchewan as well, to have that experience was very cool to see.”

Fay has been a paramedic for about 20 years, Easton has also worked as a nurse for around the same amount of time.

The majority of teams who competed came from a background of air medical services, however all competitors were critical care workers.

“It felt great, it just really emphasized that we may be from a smaller demographic, but the quality of care we’re providing is at a competition level,” said Fay.

“I truly believe that we could’ve sent any paramedic and nurse from our organization and they would’ve done well. I think that’s a testament to STARS and the quality of care we’re providing to people.

“We didn’t do anything extraordinary outside of what we normally do and I think that showcases the quality of care we’re providing everyday.”