Driving an ambulance is a dangerous job: In 2020, there were 180 reported deaths due to crashes with emergency vehicles in the U.S. Thirty-one of these were directly caused by ambulances.
The key to keeping drivers, passengers and pedestrians safe is providing ample training opportunities focusing on common and unexpected real-world scenarios. The best ambulance driving training services include practice on the road and in the controlled environment of a simulation.
Before you can revamp your driver training courses, however, it’s important to think critically about which skills you’re looking to help your drivers strengthen and improve.
Below, we list the top skills emergency personnel need to excel in their roles and keep themselves — and everyone around them — safe.
The Top 4 Skills Need When Driving an Ambulance
1. Situational Awareness
The most dangerous aspect of driving an ambulance is often outside factors drivers can’t control. For example:
- 89% of drivers believe distracted drivers are the most significant danger to emergency vehicles
- 19% of drivers say their own distracted driving has put first responders at risk
- 16% of drivers admit to hitting or almost hitting an emergency vehicle that’s stopped on or near the road
Fortunately, situational awareness can be a learned skill. Help your drivers improve their situational awareness skills by conducting regular training exercises that encourage them to hyper-focus on their surroundings using all of their senses — not just their sight.
Then have them practice mentally projecting what they think might happen next in various situations. For driving an ambulance, it’s important not just to note what is happening around them, but also to analyze the input and make accurate predictions.
If drivers practice this skill enough, it will become second nature, and they’ll be able to analyze their surroundings without thinking.
2. Ability to Stay Focused in High-Tense Situations
Distracted driving can be a problem for drivers. The crash rate of an average ambulance is 4.6 per 100,000. When lights and sirens are used, the crash rate increases to 5.5 per 100,000.
Unfortunately, distractions — whether it be the siren, the patients, or the other vehicles on the road — are part of the job. But while they can’t be eliminated, there are steps drivers can take to better manage them.
For instance, it can help to have a training session where drivers communicate via walkie-talkie while in a driving simulator. This will give them practice communicating while they’re (virtually) weaving through traffic.
You can also use the simulator to mimic other common driver distraction situations, such as a violent patient.
While some drivers will innately be better at tuning out distractions while driving, regular practice and training can help.
3. Advanced Teamwork Skills
It’s important to prioritize teamwork training with your drivers because strong teams help build a foundation of trust, which is key to an EMS team’s success.
Drivers should work on gaining advanced knowledge of both verbal and non-verbal communication. The best way to sharpen this is through activities that foster friendships and help team members get to know one another better.
It’s also important that personnel who are driving an ambulance practice good self-care, as stress and a lack of sleep can have a major effect on their ability to function in a team and on the job.
4. Ability to Problem Solve Quickly
Drivers have to think quickly and make rational decisions during emotionally-charged moments. This is not an easy task, but there are a few things you can do to help drivers strengthen this skill:
- Have them focus on the solution, not the problem—Problems naturally come with stress and negative emotions. In order to stay calm, it can help set the problem and its causes aside. Re-oreient their attention to finding a solution
- Encourage them to simplify—Often, the key to solving a problem quickly is to look for the simplest, easiest, and most obvious solution. Ignore all the extraneous details and focus on the immediate
- Practice, practice, practice—The best way to improve problem-solving skills for driving an ambulance is by giving them ample opportunities to practice in low-stress environments. But don’t be afraid to throw as many potential problems at them as possible. A simulator is a great way to do this effectively
Improve Ambulance Driving Training with a Simulator
A driving simulator designed to mimic an ambulance gives drivers the opportunity to practice real-world driving scenarios without worrying about potential injuries. Drivers can run simulations in every combination of weather, time of day and type of road, until they feel confident in their ability to face any number of potential challenges. Drivers can also feel comfortable making mistakes — and learning from them — because they’re in a safe and controlled environment.
A simulator also offers helpful instructor tools like playback and after action-review to make it easy for trainers to customize their sessions to best fit the needs and skills of each driver. For example, when a driver makes a mistake in the simulator, an instructor can walk them through exactly where they went wrong.
While some obstacles faced while driving an ambulance can’t be mitigated, others can. Driving simulators like the FireSim or PatrolSim offer driver training services to both new and experienced drivers alike.
Contact us today to learn more about our driving simulators for emergency vehicles.