COVID-19: Respiratory Failure

We are interrupting our regular q2weeks cases with this bonus case for use in an in situ simulation setting for testing your emergency department’s response to acutely unwell patient’s with suspected COVID-19. This case was written by Drs. Alia Dharamsi, SooJin Yi and Kate Hayman who are academic staff emergency physicians in Toronto. This case has been used widely at a variety of community and academic EDs in the Greater Toronto Area to facilitate departmental preparedness.

Twitter – @alia_dh + @soojinder + @hayman_kate

Featured image used under creative commons licence by Pete Linforth via Pixabay.

Why It Matters

Outbreaks of novel respiratory illnesses occur with some regularity (e.g. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)). With world travel being a modern reality, disease spread can happen quickly requiring careful infection control practices. COVID-19 (aka 2019-nCoV) was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and has since been declared an outbreak by the WHO (see THIS link for further information).

This well developed simulation case provides a way to test and improve systems in place for infection control, PPE, and management of exposure to COVID-19 or any high risk communicable respiratory illness.

Clinical Vignette

A 35-year-old woman became febrile last night with coryza and woke up acutely short of breath with productive cough, rhinorrhea, and a subjective fever. She presents to triage where she screens positive for potential coronavirus exposure due to fever, respiratory symptoms and a high-risk travel history.

Case Summary

This case was designed during the January 2020 COVID-19 outbreak in order to assess and improve team preparedness for safely and effectively caring for a critically ill coronavirus patient from triage through to intubation.

Download the case here: COVID-19

Find the directions for the props here: Props for COVID-19

Video of the nasal secretion prop:

ECG for the case found here:


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CXR for the case found here:


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POCUS for the case found here:

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Nightmares Case 1: Bradycardia

This is the first in a case series we will be publishing that make up “The Nightmares Course”.

The Nightmares Course at Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario) was developed in 2011 by Drs. Dan Howes and Mike O’Connor. The course emerged organically in response to requests from first year residents wanting more training in the response to acutely unwell patients. In 2014, Dr. Tim Chaplin took over as the course director and has expanded the course to include first year residents from 14 programs and to provide both formative feedback and summative assessment. The course involves 4 sessions between August and November and a summative OSCE in December. Each session involves 4-5 residents and covers 3 simulated scenarios that are based on common calls to the floor. The course has been adapted for use at the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Manitoba, and the University of Calgary.

Why It Matters

The first few months of residency can be a stressful time with long nights on call and the adjustment to a new level of responsibility. While help should always be available, the first few minutes of managing a decompensating patient is something all junior residents must be competent at. This case series will help to accomplish that through simulation.

Clinical Vignette

The triage note states – Patient “fainted” while returning from the bathroom at home. He was found to be slightly more confused by his wife and complained of right elbow pain.

Case Summary

This is a case of an elderly patient with syncope. He is found to be in third degree heart block.  The team is expected to perform an initial assessment and obtain an ECG. Upon recognizing the heart block, they should ensure IV access and place pacer pads while calling for help.

Download the case here:


ECG for the case found here:



Stab Wound to the Neck with Neurogenic Shock

This week’s case is written by Dr. Cheryl ffrench. She is the Simulation Director for Emergency Medicine at the University of Manitoba and is one of the advisory board members here at EMSimCases.

Why it Matters

Neurogenic shock is an important manifestation of spinal trauma. This case highlights several important aspects of neurogenic shock:

  • It can be difficult to recognize (especially in a multi-trauma patient)
  • At its presentation, vasopressors are often required to manage blood pressure
  • It should be suspected in trauma cases where the patient is hypotensive without tachycardia

Clinical Vignette

To be stated by EMS: “This is Jamal James. He’s a 21 year-old male who was found in his house by police after being stabbed by a friend. There was a lot of blood at the scene. We found a stab wound on his neck so we initiated spinal precautions. Before we arrived, the police started CPR briefly because they thought he didn’t have a pulse. He had a pulse when we got there but his respiratory effort was poor and he had a decreased LOC. Several attempts to intubate were unsuccessful so we bagged him on the way here. We don’t know anything about his allergies, medications, or past medical history.

Case Summary

A 21 year old male is brought to your tertiary care ED by EMS after being stabbed by a friend. EMS initiated spinal precautions and failed several attempts to intubate en route. On arrival, the patient is being bagged and has a single stab wound to the right posterolateral neck. He requires emergent intubation for airway protection. After intubation, his blood pressure drops but his heart rate remains in the 70s. His blood pressure will stabilize only after appropriate fluid resuscitation and vasopressor initiation.

Download the case here: Stab Wound to Neck

ECG for the case found here:


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CXR for the case found here:

Post Intubation

Post Intubation

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U/S image showing no free fluid in the abdomen found here:

no FF

(U/S image courtesy of McMaster POCUS Subspecialty Training Program)

U/S showing no pericardial effusion found here:

(U/S courtesy of McMaster POCUS Subspecialty Training Program)