Student Nurses to the Rescue

Hurricane and fire seasons are upon us and a Boston-style bombing could happen at any time in any American city. Is Austin ready for an emergency?

People playing victims of disaster

The aftermath of a tornado strike on Walmart (actually a mock disaster drill in the Lone Star Room at the Frank Erwin Center)

Experts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that disaster preparedness efforts have improved, but they could—and must—be better and are calling for more and better-trained disaster management teams.

That’s why The University of Texas at Austin Schools of Nursing and Social Work were recently preparing for the unthinkable by staging one of the largest mock disaster drills Austin has seen.

Student nurses sprang into action.

Student nurses sprang into action.

On Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, more than sixty student nurses and social workers triaged nearly 200 “wounded victims” during a recent mock disaster drill sponsored jointly by UT Austin Schools of Nursing and Social Work at the Frank Erwin Center.

Experts agree that improving disaster preparedness requires teamwork, but learning how to work in teams with other health-care providers shouldn’t begin during an actual disaster.

Student nurses moving body

There was teamwork …

Students used interprofessional strategies to respond to the aftermath of a fictional disaster—a tornado hitting a local Walmart—to prepare for a real one.

“We want all of our graduates to have basic competency in disaster preparedness and emergency response,” said Whitney Thurman, RN, MSN, instructor of clinical nursing and organizer of this year’s disaster drill.

“Talking about what to do in the event of an emergency is important, but being able to actually simulate the experience and the emotions of such an event imparts a greater understanding.

“During the drill, students practiced triage and assessment skills as well as basic emergency first aid. Many students have reported being surprised at how much they learned and truly feel more prepared to respond in an appropriate and safe way should they ever need to,” Thurman added.

Teamwork …

Teamwork …

About the School of Nursing Disaster Preparedness Program: Recognized by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing with the 2011 Innovations in Professional Nursing Education Award, the School of Nursing’s Disaster Preparedness program ensures that faculty (experienced experienced clinical and public health nurses) and upper-level students are prepared to mobilize for triage and care of victims and evacuees, allowing hospital personnel to remain at their stations.

And more teamwork!

And more teamwork!

Although some of the lucky victims were merely dazed and confused …

Although some of the luckier victims were merely dazed and confused …

Some of the disaster drill victims were found to be deceased

… others didn’t make it.

Keeping track of victims and injuries

Keeping track of victims and injuries

A new do? No, a "victim" receiving treatment for a head wound.

A new do? No, a “victim” receiving first aid treatment for a head wound.

Slips of paper for triage

Triage tags at the ready

students in a group

After the drill, a debriefing: What went right, what went wrong

Job well done!

School of Nursing professor wearing a badge

Dr. Corinne Grimes, a member of the Disaster Preparedness team, sports the team’s motto “Doing our best to make your day a disaster.”

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