By Jessica Tanner
Watch the video of the mock Mass Casualty Incident here!
In the cool, dark tunnels beneath the Provo Missionary Training Center, 100 victims cried out for help. At 4:00 pm on March 30, 2019, an emergency call was answered by BYU Emergency Medical Services and College of Nursing students, who quickly came to the rescue. They handled the situation with level heads and caring hands, treating scrapes and bruises, broken bones and shock. Within a few hours, victims had been treated and cared for.
Similar emergency simulations takes place each semester for fifth-semester nursing students, organized by BYU EMS. Each time is a different situation and location. The most recent disaster was an earthquake. BYU theatre students volunteered to be earthquake victims, with fake wounds and ripped clothes to set the scene. Some had scratches and bruises, others missing eyes or fingers, some had broken bones, and others had glass embedded in their wounds. Once in the tunnel, these students did not hold back in acting the part of a victim—wounded and afraid, calling out for help and for loved ones.
Nursing students and EMS rushed in from various locations, including BYU campus and near-by homes. They searched along the tunnel for those in critical condition. Amidst a cacophony of moans and screams, they were able to identify which victims were in the most need by a wristband that identified their vitals and condition. They tied red tags on victims in critical condition, yellow tags for less serious injuries, and green who were not in need of urgent treatment. Most victims, however, fell into the first two categories.
Students set up a treatment center with incredible speed—a large tarp near the tunnel entrance with medical supplies at the ready. EMS carried red-tagged victims to the treatment area. Here, nursing students and EMS were direct and compassionate as they asked questions, such as “What is your name?”, “Can you hear me?” or “Where does it hurt?” They reassured the victims, saying, “We’re going to take care of you, all right?” as they called out for oxygen and gauze. Working together, nursing students and EMS were able to treat those in need.
“I hope that they’ll see another side of healthcare,” says associate teaching professor Dr. Blaine Winters on what he hopes the nursing students have learned from the simulation. “They’re usually in a very controlled environment in the hospital and when things happen outside of a hospital it’s not controlled, it’s chaos. So I wanted them to get an understanding of what goes on before the patient gets to the hospital. And then also to be able to function if they were to be put in that type of situation; to at least have a little experience of what they could do as a nurse in the field if they had to.”
One important skill students learned, besides basic treatments, is communication. Fifth-semester nursing student Jaylee Bastian says, “We were working with other EMS as well as the patients, so it was good to know how to communicate and be open and friendly especially with the patients because they were in such dire circumstances.” Even though those “dire circumstance” were simulated, participants like Bastian were fully engaged in the process.
Emergencies happen. But being prepared for these situations, not only through study but through practice, can calm chaos and save lives.