February 24, 2014

Texas A&M Health Science Center’s Simulated Disaster Event Offers Profound Experience For Students

disaster day cadet

A Texas A&M University student portrays an explosion victim at the Health Science Center's 'Disaster Day,' a simulated disaster event.

At the last Disaster Day simulation, a Texas A&M cadet portrayed an explosion victim so convincingly, that tears well up in Chelsea Knutson’s eyes when she recalls it. “His performance was worthy of an Oscar,” the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing student remembers.

It’s apparent when she describes it that although the annual mass emergency training event for medical students is a simulation, with hundreds of volunteers acting and wearing makeup to appear injured, the experience has profound effects on participants.

“I remember a student caring for him and it seemed so real,” Knutson says. “This experience has a huge impact on students and that’s what it’s all about.”

It was her own participation as a simulation patient, in fact, that first inspired Knutson, a 2012 Texas A&M Biomedical Sciences graduate, to pursue a career in nursing.

She joins fellow senior level nursing student Natalie Hamblin, who earned her bachelor’s degree in Allied Health from Texas A&M in 2012, as a Disaster Day incident commander for this year’s event, which will be at Central Baptist Church in College Station on Thursday, March 20. Senior-level nursing students Samantha Hoover and Layne Schickedanz will also serve as incident commanders.

“Disaster Day is a chance for students to practice their skills in a safe environment,” Hamblin explains.

“It’s organized chaos,” laughs Knutson, adding that the simulation teaches students to work under extreme pressure.

Exactly what kind of “disaster” will be simulated is kept under wraps until the event starts, the students explain, because as in real life, the nature of a disaster is unknown until it happens.

disaster day crowd shot

Past Disaster Day simulations have included a structure collapse, explosion, fire, tornado and hurricane. The nature of the next disaster is kept secret until the event begins.

In past years, simulations have included a structure collapse, explosion, fire, tornado and hurricane.

Disaster Day will not only include students from the College of Nursing, but also medicine, pharmacy and veterinary medicine students from Texas A&M and nursing, radiology, physical therapy and EMS students from Blinn College.

Last year’s event included more than 300 “patients;” they work either a four-hour morning or afternoon shift, or the whole day and receive a free lunch. “We are getting more and more volunteers each year,” Hamblin states. “This year we are hoping for 278 volunteers for each shift.”

First-year nursing students serve as patients rather than as medical personnel because, “This allows them the experience of being on the receiving side as a patient and next year they’ll participate as nurses. It’s great to have experiences on both sides of care,” Knutson explains.

Community members wishing to volunteer should email hsc-disastervolunteer@tamhsc.edu.

Hamblin says simulations such as Disaster Day are invaluable for students because if such a mass emergency does occur, “they can say ‘I’ve already experienced this and I’m ready.’”

Find Disaster Day on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/disasterday.

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Media contact: Lesley Henton, Division of Marketing & Communications at Texas A&M University;
979-845-5591, lshenton@tamu.edu

More news about Texas A&M University, go to http://tamutimes.tamu.edu

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