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Disaster simulation gives nursing students excellent learning opportunity

Posted: Apr 24, 2013


Senior nursing students focused on understanding and practicing the roles of the triage/emergency room/charge nurses in a disaster situation during a recent disaster simulation.


Sara Parker (Fort Wayne, Ind.) practices the proper way to review the physician’s orders before providing treatment to her patient.


Kelsey Warp (Parnell, Iowa) practices her patient assessment and communication skills in the Department of Nursing’s Virtual Learning Center.

9:30 a.m. Motorcycle accident, 19-year-old male, no feeling in lower body. Female with crush injury, abdominal trauma. Male has brassy cough from smoke inhalation. Female in labor with birth of first baby.

“It hurts so bad. Please help me!”

Just another day in a hospital emergency room? Not this time. It’s Disaster Day in Wisner Hall of Nursing — yet another learning opportunity for Olivet’s senior nursing students to practice their skills in simulation of real-world events.

Recreating a high stress day in a hospital emergency room, volunteers took on the roles of patients. Nursing students took on the roles of hospital personnel, such as physicians and technicians. Also available for triage were those who took on the roles of charge nurses, chaplain and paramedics. Senior nursing students worked two-hour shifts throughout the day.

The result was a day filled with challenges, questions and opportunities to use the skills nursing students have been working so hard to learn.

Applying four years of learning

Brooke Piper, nursing professor and coordinator for the day’s activities, headed up the Command Center. Danny Wainwright — a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), registered nurse, and Virtual Learning Center (VLC) coach — assisted her. Together, they moulaged the patients, preparing them for triage. Then, an assigned nursing student triaged the patients as they entered the emergency room simulation setting.

“We are using this scenario to teach our students more about assessment and treatment skills,” Professor Piper said. “They have to deal with protocols and document binders, just like they would in an actual hospital setting. We did our best to work in a variety of patients — those who had been affected by a disaster, and also others dealing with everyday health concerns such as a heart attack, the birth of a baby and a psychiatric crisis.”

Sounds of crying and yelling filled the air as patients shared information about their injuries, illnesses and pain. Nursing students had hands-on experience in taking vital signs and following doctors’ orders in an emergency situation.

At 3:30 p.m., students and faculty members gathered for a debriefing session. Patients and nurses gave their feedback. Faculty members provided helpful insights for improvement.

Glimpse of reality

“This was a great opportunity for us to practice our communication skills,” said Ariel Burke of Wheaton, Ill.

“I found that my nursing instinct kicks in when there’s an emergency situation,” said Jillian Karrick of Portage, Mich. “Disaster Day is a great confidence builder for me. It helps me with my critical thinking skills, as well as quick recognition and reaction. This is our scenario, and we have to decide which patient to treat first, based on severity of injuries, and what to do.

“We are just weeks away from actually doing this in a hospital setting."

Cadets enrolled in Olivet's Roaring Tiger ROTC Battalion