GMercyU Nursing Students Triage Simulated Disasters on Campus

September 20, 2019
GMercyU disaster simulation
A student plays the role of an asthmatic patient needing help during the disaster simulation.

If you happened to walk by the Lady Garden this week, you might’ve witnessed a gory scene on the steps of Maguire Hall. Caution tape, victims covered in fake blood, amputated fake limbs, and a steady stream of activity were all part of well-crafted disaster simulations by GMercyU’s BSN Nursing Program.

The annual drills are designed to help senior-level nursing students put the skills they’ve learned throughout the program to the test. During the drills, some of the students acted as responders, others played the roles of the injured. A teacher manning the command station directed traffic at the scene of the disaster, eventually handing her walkie-talkie to a student nurse to control for the rest of the drill.

All victims carried cards with pre-written back stories that shared their vital signs (some things you can’t fake!). Our responders’ assessed and tagged the victims – green, for example, was designated to the walking wounded; black meant deceased. Once the injured were tagged, they were moved inside to the simulation labs or “ER” rooms, where they were assessed and treated once again before being discharged, moved again to a “hospital room” or, if necessary, to “surgery.”

Contributing to the chaos were curveballs in the form of a diabetic patient who, after the first assessment, suddenly became hyperglycemic. Or, a patient would collapse in the ER with a heart attack.

“We try to cover as many scenarios as possible,” Professor Teresa Lewis, RN, DNP explained. “Every year we make adjustments to the simulations, refining and improving them.” For example, the simulation was once held in November. It has since been moved to September with the “explosion” now held outdoors to create more space inside for the simulated ER. 

Five drills in total were held this week; three on Monday and two on Wednesday. After each one, faculty and students gathered together for a debriefing to review the scenarios, how they were managed, and what our students learned from them.

The simulations are an enormous endeavor, but an opportunity for GMercyU nursing students to gain invaluable experience. And so, GMercyU plans to expand the drills.

“In the future, we are hoping to grow the program to include students from GMercyU’s Respiratory Care Program and Social Work Program,” added Lewis, “and eventually expand it to a community-wide, all-campus event that engages our local fire rescue and police.”