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Student nurses take part in mock disaster drill

Posted: Sept. 19, 2012

Texas, including Austin, dodged a bullet last month when Hurricane Isaac made landfall on the Louisiana coast. Vulnerable as the region is to hurricanes, tornados, fires and flooding, the threat of a disaster event is all too real.

Student nurses participating in mock disaster drill

Student nurses participating in mock disaster drill

That’s why the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing has collaborated with the city of Austin to create a plan for all-hazard disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

But how do you prepare for something that is almost incomprehensible?

By repetition and realistic training that presents as close and bad a scenario as can be envisioned, hoping that if disaster strikes, you are as prepared as possible.

In other words, the more you drill it, the less you will have to think about it when it comes to engaging in that process.

That’s why on Thursday, Sept. 13, 60 upper-level nursing students took part in a mock disaster drill at the School of Nursing. In the scenario, they were told, a tornado had hit a shopping area and a fire had broken out as a result.

For the next 20 minutes, the students set to work triaging the victims (some mannequins, some student volunteers) and treating the injured with whatever materials were at hand. Afterwards their instructors, themselves experienced clinical and public health nurses, debriefed the group, pointing out what went well, what needs more practice.

Although there is no way that the students and faculty can plan for every contingency in an emergency, they know that by practicing the competencies that will be needed regardless of the disaster event and focusing on their ability to operate different modes of communication, evacuation procedures and patient movement, and medical surge, they can make a significant contribution to the community.

“The students can’t treat everybody,” said Marilyn Pattillo, PhD, RN, and associate professor of Clinical Nursing. “But they can strive for the greatest good for the greatest number.”

The School’s disaster preparedness program was recognized by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing with the 2011 Innovations in Professional Nursing Education Award.

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