A mass disaster simulation event has been helping prepare health profession students in Texas should the worst happen. EPS Chair Jacqui Semple praises the approach in helping the next generation of resilience professionals prepare.

“Held at the Texas A&M University Health Science Centre, this was the 12th Annual Disaster Day response simulation and more than 700 students took part. They engaged in triage, patient care at a mock field hospital and learned about disaster management at the site of a lock earthquake scenario.

“Texas has the highest frequency of extreme weather events in the US including hurricanes on the Gulf Coast and tornadoes in the Panhandle. Other scenarios including mass human violence and industrial accidents are also risks.

“To help prepare the state’s future health professionals for these, and other, possible events, the university conducted the largest student-led interprofessional disaster response simulation in the US. Disaster Day is a large-scale drill which teaches health professions students how to work collaboratively to manage disasters and provide timely and appropriate patient care.

“Disaster Day was created by the Texas A&M College of Nursing in 2008 and is now facilitated through the A&M Health Office of Interprofessional Education and Research.

“Students from across Texas A&M Health at the colleges of nursing, medicine, pharmacy and public health, as well as psychology and veterinary students and the Corps of Cadets, took part in the one-day event. It was held at the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service’s (TEEX) Brayton Fire Training Field and Disaster City, a world class, 52-acre mock city that serves as a training facility for emergency responders.

“For the live action simulation, a new scenario is selected each year and kept secret until event day to provide the realism of an unexpected situation. Last year’s event was a chemical explosion and building collapse, and this year’s event simulated an earthquake where more than 700 students engaged in triage at the disaster site, patient care at a mock field hospital and disaster management and simulation oversight at Disaster City’s Emergency Operations Training Centre.

“The students had to react to mass “injuries,” with other students in makeup portraying victims with varying degrees of wounds from cuts to compound fractures. The students mimicked panicked patients as they screamed, cried and pleaded for help. At the end of each exercise, instructors and other observers critiqued student teams on their clinical skills, teamwork and communication to help improve their skills for a real-life disaster and their practice after graduation.

“These sorts of events are absolutely essential when students are learning about disaster preparedness and emergency response, how organisations and professions co-ordinate and come together to respond.

 

“They’re the ideal way also for those already working in the sector to hone and refine their skills, practice and put their skills to the test. It makes us all think quickly and practicing this way is valuable because these situations can happen in the real world.

“When a disaster or emergency of any sort strikes, co-ordination between groups and people, even under intense pressure, is exactly what’s needed to keep people safe. Events such as these are hugely beneficial for everyone planning a career, or already working, in emergency planning.”