Health care professionals get hands-on firefighter training as part of new partnership

MFD partners with TAHPI to streamline injury care
Health care professionals get hands-on firefighter training as part of new partnership

A new Madison fire department partnership is making sure injured firefighters get the help they need to get back on the job and keep the community safe.

The department is working with Tactical Athlete Health Performance Institute (TAHPI), which connects injured firefighters with knowledgeable health care professionals more quickly than previously.

As part of that partnership, a training session Saturday at Madison College’s Public Safety Tactical Training Ground invited health care professionals to participate in exercises, including fire attack, search and rescue, emergency medical services and auto extraction.

“By looking at demands placed on us, this is a typical day for us, pulling hose, removing patients,” firefighter Aaron Zamzow said. “Then you multiply that by 92 shifts a year.”

So it’s no surprise the job requires a few more visits to the doctor.

“The injury incidents are a lot higher in fire service than any other injury,” Zamzow said.

Physical therapist Laura Ganske is taking part in the training, donning gear that totals more than 70 pounds.

“You get a newfound appreciation for how heavy the gear is, how awkward it is to move in,” she said. “I’m pretty worn out.”

Zamzow said wearing the gear and participating in the simulations helps health care providers appreciate the physical demands placed upon firefighters.

“I love my job. I love to show other people what we do,” he said. “Once they really, truly understand with a hands-on approach, they’re able to create training protocols and rehab protocols that are probably a little more aggressive than the general population would have to experience, because they understand the rigors we face as soon as we step out of the rig.”

“When I worked in professional athletics, I would never send our quarterback to a doctor who’s never watched a football game before, so why would I send a firefighter or police officer to see a physician who’s never pulled hose or chopped with an ax or went up a ladder?” TAHPI CEO and founder Luis Rivera said. “Until you feel the weight of those things and see what it takes, I think it’s hard to get someone back to the level they should be getting back to.”

Rivera said TAHPI can also get injured firefighters seen within days rather than weeks, allowing them to return to work more quickly, and ultimately saving the department and city money.

Ganske learned lessons she will likely be feeling Sunday, but ones she’ll be able to carry with her as another tool in her physical therapy practice.

“I didn’t expect how physical it is, and even just the stress in more of a controlled environment,” she said. “Everything put into play in real life is a whole new experience.”