On November 3, 2009, the UT School of Nursing participated in an area-wide mock disaster drill. Stella Logan, RN, MSN, mental health faculty, coordinated the school’s participation. Ms Logan represents the SON on the Capital Area Public Health and Medical Preparedness Coalition, whose mission is to coordinate responses to a variety of health situations in the Austin area.
Nineteen area agencies were involved in the drill’s planning and implementation. On the day of the drill, 7 faculty members participated with their clinical students. Approximately 57 undergraduate and 9 graduate students participated as mock victims for the exercise. Two additional faculty and two additional graduate students participated as evaluators. School of Nursing volunteers were placed in 6 different facilities across the tri-county area.
Students and faculty were eager to participate in this project for a variety of reasons. Playing a victim role in a mock disaster is a great way to learn about possible injuries and complications, as well as developing empathy for the victim’s experience. Students were also able to learn about the importance of disaster preparedness, the complexity of community disaster response, and how to critique disaster drill activities. In addition to being able to provide students with wonderful learning opportunities, the School provided an important service to the community. In addition to actually playing roles in the disaster drill, students and faculty developed over 70 patient injury scenarios and victim ID tags that will be able to be used in the future. Students and faculty were also able to provide agencies with valuable feedback and recommendations about the disaster response.
Ms Logan noted: “Of the many things that were learned through the process, one of the most important was that nothing ever goes as planned. Some of the agencies we had planned to use were unable to participate due to high H1N1 flu volume in the ERs. Other ERs had major real trauma that consumed all available resources. Getting people to the right place at the right time was more difficult than anticipated, so future drills will need to reevaluate how volunteers are dispersed. ”
The School has decided that participation in mock disaster provides students with unique learning opportunities for every clinical focus.