Ultrasound technology can help paramedics save lives in the field. A groundbreaking new class at VCU is training them how.

Michael Ny (B.S.’13/H&S), a firefighter and paramedic for Chesterfield County, practices using ultrasound to find a vein to insert an IV.

A 62-year-old male has collapsed on a treadmill at the gym. First responders arrive to find that he’s unconscious and without a pulse. They start CPR.

“Let’s see what’ve got,” says paramedic Shawn Lawrence (B.S.W.’10/SW), as he runs a small ultrasound probe over the man’s chest, conjuring up a black-and-white image of the heart on a handheld monitor.

The ultrasound reveals the heart is quivering, just slightly.

“OK, so what do you think?” asks Stephanie K. Louka, M.D. (H.S.’17/M), an emergency medical services fellow and clinical instructor in the Department of Emergency Medicine of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.

“So, we’re going to shock him,” Lawrence replies. He applies a defibrillator. The ultrasound shows the man’s heart has started beating again with an organized rhythm.

“Oh, I’m happy with that,” Lawrence says. “It looks good.”

This scenario — a simulation in which Lawrence was resuscitating a medical training mannequin — took place in VCU’s trauma skills classroom as part of a new course in which first responder medical personnel from across Virginia are getting hands-on training to use ultrasound technology before the patient reaches a hospital.

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