Nursing Students Test Skills During Disaster Drills

by Janelle Hill | Nov 09, 2016



Screams of "my eyes, my eyes," "I'm scared," and "I'm going into labor" resonated inside the Gambet Center on Tuesday, November 1 and Thursday, November 3. Fortunately for these students, it was only a drill.

Senior nursing students at DeSales were put to the test not once but twice, during a simulated meth lab explosion and natural gas explosion. Twenty-five students took part in the drills each day, along with the student-run EMS team.

“It's an all around win-win for the students that they can put themselves in those situations,” says Mary Lou Gies, assistant professor of nursing. “When you're in a situation, you don't know how people are going to react.”

Fifteen students played victims suffering from various levels of injury — from burning eyes to bleeding legs complete with fake blood and makeup — while the remaining 10 played the part of first responders. Those responders triaged the wounded, then escorted them to different colored tarps, based on the severity of their injuries.

"We've had sim labs before but we haven't experienced a disaster simulation in clinical yet so I think it's good they're exposing us to this," says Lizzie Peters, who played one of the victims. 

"It just shows you how to be flexible and handle different situations," adds Ashley Ader, another victim. "We had a patient pretend to be pregnant or speak a different language. It prepares you to adapt."

Students completed an online course, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to prepare. After the drills, participants, staff, and faculty members held debriefings to discuss what went right and what went wrong. “Debriefings allow time for personal reflection and sharing of ideas for future disaster scenarios,” says Mary Ellen Miller, lecturer in the department of nursing and health. Students will have plenty of time to reflect until the next disaster drill, which is scheduled for the spring.

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