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Life Flight Introduces Cadaver Lab to Local EMS

In an effort to further enhance programmatic offerings to local emergency medical services (EMS), Life Flight® has created a cadaver lab tailored to individual EMS departments’ unique needs. According to Joel Benavides, RN, CFRN, LP, flight nurse, who spearheaded the cadaver lab, the goal is to create a customized learning experience that reflects what EMS personnel potentially encounter in the field and to practice high-risk, low-frequency procedures.

“We wanted to expand our role in education by helping train our colleagues in the EMS community,” said Benavides. “Our pilot program for the cadaver lab was a huge success, and we are ready to bring this service to anyone who needs it.”

The use of cadavers for practicing advanced pre-hospital procedures enables personnel to get practical experience in ways that are not possible with a mannequin, explained Benavides. Life Flight has long trained its own personnel with cadavers, conducting in-house cadaver labs for their flight nurses and paramedics annually. The new cadaver lab for EMS personnel is designed for convenience and can be conducted onsite or at the Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center Campus.

The Life Flight team conducted its first successful cadaver lab last year with the West I-10 Fire Department, where Benavides also serves as training officer. The Department has five fire stations and services the near-Katy area covering approximately 45 square miles, with a population of more than 100,000 residents. Their cadaver lab was designed to follow the Department’s specific protocols and procedures, and was performed in small groups of 10 to ensure one-on-one instruction that allowed each trainee a chance to perform skills multiple times individually.

The EMS personnel utilized their own equipment to gain a more practical proficiency of skills, and were trained in procedures such as video laryngoscopy for intubation, intraosseous cannulation (IO) insertion in multiple sites and cricothyrotomy.

The group also learned and practiced advanced skills such as chest tube insertion, central line placement, needle chest decompression and pericardiocentesis. While new equipment and other products were available for EMS personnel to try, the entire lab was performed utilizing equipment only found in their ambulance.

“One of the unintended benefits from this particular lab was that a piece of equipment failed during training,” said Benavides. “It was immediately replaced on the ambulance, and the team was able to avert what could have been a catastrophic airway failure.”

Once the above skills were practiced and performed with proficiency, a gross anatomy class was taught by Kevin Schulz, M.D., EMT-B, EMS fellow and assistant professor of emergency medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. The shoulders of the cadavers were dissected to show the most accurate locations of IO insertion sites, and chests were opened to show the anatomy of the cavity. The group also dissected coronary arteries to show plaque

blockages and other causes of heart attacks.

“The medics loved it and said they learned so much,” said Benavides. “Training on cadavers provides them with the ideal opportunity to receive personalized, hands-on experience.”

The cadaver labs are now available to all EMS departments and are offered at a moderate cost to cover materials and supplies, which varies based upon their specific needs. For more information, contact Joel Benavides at