(TNS) - With the aim to give students a hands-on learning experience, while helping medical professionals prepare for a potential mass casualty situation, Lakeland Hospital partnered with students Tuesday morning to participate in a mass casualty simulation.
The annual drill has taken place for a number of years, each time involving a different scenario in which students are assigned roles as victims and medical professionals work to help them. This year medical professionals prepared for a worst-case scenario at the Redbud Motocross track in Buchanan. In this fictional simulation, a truck drives through a crowd at the popular sports arena, injuring many in its wake. Students who participated Tuesday were assigned a victim role, health status and even injury props, like gaping sores to help bring the scenario to life. They then went through the process of being transported via ambulance and treated at the hospital.
In real life, a hospital must be trained to handle a mass casualty while also dealing with other civilians who may need to be treated for day to day injuries. So, a number of students were assigned to play the role of patients who were injured outside of the mass casualty incident as well.
At 9 a.m. the main wing of the hospital was abuzz as hospital staff pushed students on rolling beds through the hall, while on a white board staff charted the severity of patients. Standing amidst the organized chaos was Angie Mann, the Professional Health Careers Academy instructor for Niles High School. Students who sign up for PHCA have an interest in pursuing a career in the medical field. The exercise is one that can teach them a lot about the field, while also giving them the perspective of a patient.
“They get to see firsthand what the doctors are doing what the techs are doing and they are being taken to all the different departments,” Mann said. “They get to be in the patient’s shoes. They get to see what it feels like to be in all that gear and be moved around and be waiting.”
This was the case for Derryl Rundengan, 17, of Berrien Springs. With some medical machines strapped to his body, Rundengan waited in a hospital bed as part of the simulation. Rundengan said he was assigned a character named Aaron, who manages to leap out of the path of the vehicle, but falls down and injures himself in the process. Compared to many of his peers, Rundengan said his injuries were minor.
With the hopes of one day pursuing a career as a mental health nurse, Rundengan said he was seeking to gain more perspective about how medical professionals handle high-stakes emergencies.
He said this was the first mass casualty situation that he had been involved in.
“It’s definitely been really cool,” Rundengan said.
And while students get to learn hands on, staff at Lakeland Hospital get the chance to practice for handling a mass casualty.
“It helps them be prepared for the real thing and as we know, the real thing can happen,” Mann said. “We are a small community, but it helps to be prepared anywhere.”
Al DiBrito, the deputy chief manager of the emergency room, said after the simulation, staff assess how they handled the scenario and talk about what they can do better.
DiBrito said it was best to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
“We have a lot of events in our community and Redbud [International] is going to be huge,” DiBrito said. “We just want to train and practice. We want this to be a learning environment versus a testing environment.”
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