Nursing students exercise leadership in planning Disaster Day simulation

April 2, 2012

Screams echo off of every wall as chaos and confusion grow and the smell of disinfectant and smoke mingle in the air. In the left corner, a young man suffering from second- and third-degree burns on 50 percent of his body shrieks that he does not want to be touched. A pregnant mother sobs violently, concerned for the well-being of her unborn child after her car wreck while trying to flee the flames. Shrapnel protrudes from arms and legs, broken bones are the norm and anxiety attacks have seized many individuals.

The accumulating commotion is the result of a carefully planned and entirely structured disaster simulation coordinated by students and faculty from the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) College of Nursing.

Disaster Day originally was created by the TAMHSC-College of Nursing to reinforce several nursing student objectives and offer hands-on training for students to become more prepared for the real world.

“A few years ago, a major hurricane hit the Gulf Coast, evacuees were shipped to Reed Arena, and the nursing students were just thrown in,” said senior nursing student Bailey Thomas. “They had no knowledge, no idea what was going on. They could take blood pressures, and that was about it. It was just a huge ordeal, so we created Disaster Day to prepare our students for these types of disaster situations.”

The overall disaster scenario, a wildfire, was chosen this year due to the major fires in Texas that occurred last summer.

This year, the TAMHSC-College of Nursing brought in the other health professional students to participate. “Interdisciplinary education offers students from different disciplines the opportunity to practice working together and develop appropriate role expectations, respect and teamwork that otherwise does not happen,” said Jerry Livingston, M.S.N., RN, assistant professor of nursing.

This interdisciplinary education was one of the major objectives for Disaster Day this year.

“In addition to the nursing students, medical students, pharmacy students and EMS also participated in the disaster simulation that involved volunteers in the community as our victims,” said senior nursing student Hannah Swigert.

— Blair Williamson