Medical Student Simulation: Caring for the Unstable Acutely Ill Patient


  • The rapid assessment of a patient’s airway, breathing and circulatory status is critical to treating a wide variety of patients and clinical conditions. The initial assessment of a patient’s ability to oxygenate, ventilate and protect their airway is a critical step in treating a patient in extremis.
  • Early aggressive intervention in many situations limits the overall decompensation of the patient and allows for a better overall outcome.  The early involvement of support staff, such as a rapid response and code teams cannot be understated.  If you identify a patient an unstable patient, the FIRST thing you should do is call for help.
  • Once help is on their way, do not stand around with your hands in your pockets.  Remember you are the first line, and you are medically trained!  You are good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit people like you! INTERVENE!  You may not know the etiology of the patient’s clinical decline, but you know that they are not stable and their airway is not protected.  Use your ABC’s and help will be there shortly.  If you don’t do something, the patient may be in full arrest by the time your reinforcements arrive.
  • The training scenarios are designed to demonstrate the key aspects in identifying and intervening in a number of clincal conditions.  They use a common decision analysis and skill set that if you master, will be an excellent basis for your ability to treat severly ill patients.

Required Reading – Knowledge Based Objectives

Required Reading – Skills Based Objectives

Supplemental (Recommended) Materials

The New England Journal of Medicine has a website with readings and videos, visible online or downloadable to a PDA or iPod.  They are short and VERY helpful.