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Disaster Day simulation grows in size, scope and intensity with community help

Approximately 300 TAMHSC and Blinn students, and more than 500 patient volunteers made the 7th annual Disaster Day the largest to-date.

A helicopter rushes a critically injured patient to the nearest hospital, nurses hurry to the sides of panicked, bloody patients and desperate faces beg for help. This was the scene March 20 at Central Baptist Church as the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) hosted its seventh annual Disaster Day.

The TAMHSC College of Nursing created Disaster Day as an emergency mass simulation for students to gain hands-on experience responding to a mass casualty disaster. This year, the scenario (kept secret until the morning announcement) was a hurricane with an additional spin-off tornado. This was the largest Disaster Day in TAMHSC history with more than 800 participants.

The one-day event is carefully planned and executed by students within the Texas A&M College of Nursing and provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to respond in mass emergency situations. Each year, a new scenario is chosen to push students to test their emergency response skills outside the classroom. The scenario is kept secret until the day of the event in order to provide a more realistic simulation.

The 2014 Disaster Day boasts the largest inter-professional engagement in its history. More than 300 students from Texas A&M College of Nursing, Medicine and Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, as well as Blinn College nursing, radiology and EMS students participated. Approximately 500 community volunteers also participated as simulated patients, including approximately 200 local high school students from Bryan and College Station.

The interdisciplinary nature of the event provides TAMHSC and Blinn students the opportunity to practice working together across medical specialties to develop appropriate role expectations, respect and teamwork. This year also included P.H.I. Flight Service helicopter evacuation and the Brazos County Regional Advisory Council’s mobile medical unit to provide additional real-life, and real-time experiences.

One of the most unique aspects of Disaster Day is that it is almost entirely student led. “This is planned start to finish by students,” said Laura Livingston, associate director of the Clinical Learning Resource Center. “The students make all this happen – they have ownership of it. We just help guide them through the process.”

Disaster Day is part of the larger simulation educational experience of Texas A&M nursing students and is a component of the required nursing curriculum. Simulation offers an educational experience that allows students to develop, refine and apply knowledge and critical thinking skills in realistic, interactive learning experiences. Simulated patients were applied with “moulage” makeup to mimic injuries and acted-out injuries and medical cases. Simulated patients were seen crying, screaming and reacting to various conditions, there were even a few births.

“This experience empowers our students and gives them confidence,” said Jerry Livingston, Ph.D, M.S.N, RN, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Nursing. “They learn how to negotiate the best possible outcome for the patient in a fast paced and unknown challenge, and how to cooperate across medical disciplines.”

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