Real-life emergencies are scenarios that are difficult if not completely impossible for student health responders to be prepared for. For as much training and preparation that they receive in the classroom, all of those lessons are mere theory compared to the experience of seeing real people seriously injured and dying from a catastrophe. However, in a bid to prepare its students as much as possible for an event, Texas A&M Health Science Center and Blinn College recently staged a mock “disaster day” in order to recreate the horrific sights and sounds that emergency responders have to cope with in order to make the best medical decisions possible in a frantic, chaotic situation.
According to an article in The Eagle by Andrea Salazar, a staggering 500 volunteers took part in the operation, which took place at Central Baptist Church last Thursday in College Station, in order to accurate recreate a major disaster. These were not actors, but rather ordinary people who were willing to play the best role possible to stage a realistic scene, with patients sporting injuries that ranges from simple scrapes to life-threatening situations, such as fatal abdominal hemorrhaging and heart failure.
This is not the first time an event like this has been held — the annual Disaster Day is now in its seventh year. The scenario this year was set around the devastation left after a coastal hurricane with spin-off tornadoes, with patients entering the church gymnasium with fake injuries sustained by the storm. According to Salazar, the ambience during the event was intense: “Adding to the controlled chaos were several patients in a manic state, an elderly woman with dementia who thought it was 1941 as well as several women in labor.”
The team of student responders were assembled from Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing, College of Medicine and Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, as well as Blinn College nursing, radiology and EMS programs. Not only was Disaster Day an education for students, but also a dry run for the community as well: the church is a designated evacuation center, and as a result, the Brazos Valley Regional Advisory Council’s mobile medical units participated as well.
Jerry Livingston, assistant professor with the Texas A&M College of Nursing and coordinator for the event, explained that everyone involved — from volunteers to students — took the recreation serious, and that the take away was a valuable lesson to all: “We’re trying to suspend disbelief and sometimes that’s hard to do, so the harder we can work to make it as real as possible, then the students feel that it’s real,” Livingston said. “As you can see today, they take it serious.”