The chaotic scene looked like a horror movie – severe head injuries, sucking chest wound, impalement of steel rod to am abdomen, a spinal cord injury, a femur fracture, facial lacerations, a shoulder dislocation, bleeding from a radial artery laceration, a nasal fracture, and bilateral forearm fractures.
Victims yelled – “Please help me. I can’t move my leg. What happened?” Their shrill screams echoed through the Angus J. Tucker Baseball Field at Surry Community College in Dobson as some victims walked around aimlessly, confused and injured. Others remained silently on the ground, while others yelped in pain.
An area that is normally filled with Surry Knights baseball players and fans had become the simulation for a medical emergency involving a bleacher collapse with 10 victims, nine alive and one deceased.
The victims were identified with paperwork detailing medical stats such as blood pressure and heart rate along with symptoms. The nursing and paramedic students did not know what they would encounter that morning as part of this emergency medical simulation until they arrived on the scene.
“Though we had just taught trauma to these students in the past few weeks, they now had to apply, not only those skills recently learned, but the skills they have gained over the last 20 months in a disaster simulation that was in an uncontrolled/uncertain environment,” said Dr. Andrea Underwood, SCC nurse educator, who organized the simulation.
“The nursing students were first on the scene of the disaster and given only limited supplies, so they had to think outside of the box of acute ways to stabilize the patients before EMS arrived with much needed medical equipment,” she said. “Improvising would be a good word to use here to describe how the nursing students had to react to care for their victims. They also had to use critical thinking in how to triage the patients correctly. Who was the most critical? Who was the most stable? Who could not be saved?
“Two nursing students, Johnny Collins and Savannah Atkins, were first on the scene as they were the primary and secondary survey nurses. They were responsible for assessing and triaging the patients correctly. The remaining group of senior nursing students joined soon after to provide the necessary care for the victims.”
The college’s cosmetology students had spent a couple hours that morning preparing the victims by performing moulage, which is a technique in which special effects makeup is used to create wounds and injuries in a fabricated environment.
“The simulation I participated in along with my nursing classmates was a wonderful opportunity for putting our critical thinking skills to the test,” Atkins said. “We nursing students did not have much knowledge on what the scenario would be like or what to expect, making it that much more thrilling. It was wonderful testing our knowledge on how well we could quickly perform a primary survey and determine which patients were the most critical and needed to be attended to first. Along with testing our critical thinking skills, we also had to make sure our emergency assessment and intervention skills were up to par.
“Between having realistic looking and acting victims performed by Surry Community’s cosmetology students, the collaboration of EMS students, multiple bystanders, and family member actors, the simulation felt like we were in a real-life disaster scenario. I found this simulation very beneficial and exciting.”
Nursing student Johnny Collins of Ararat, Virginia, added, “I was unsure of what to expect on this exercise, but I was pleasantly surprised. I thought that this was a fun way for my fellow classmates and I to utilize our skills and practice assessing victims with different types of medical problems. I sincerely hope that the college continues to offer this experience for their medical students in the future.”
SCC Cosmetology Instructor Wendy Billings led her students in performing the moulage on the victims.
“The Cosmetology Department is always excited about doing simulations with the EMT students and the nursing students. It gives those involved a chance to interact with each other and to show off their abilities in the career that they love. I’m so proud of my class,” Billings said.
“I really enjoyed doing the makeup. It was a good learning experience for me,” said cosmetology student Elisabeth Maya of Harmony.
Cosmetology student Renee Kirkman of Mount Airy added, “I was previously in the medical field. It was a different experience being on the opposite end of the spectrum. I was a wounded victim in the simulation. I felt that everyone involved was professional and took it seriously.”
Kenneth Vaught, coordinator of the Emergency Medical Program for SCC, summed up the training event.
“This was an exceptional opportunity for our students to experience a mass casualty incident where there was a large audience, several people providing treatment prior to their arrival, and how they interacted with and used those bystanders. It was also great to see the inter-cooperation of multiple departments of Surry Community College working together to develop and implement such a tremendous event for our students,” he said.
High school tour groups from Elkin High School and Surry Central High School were able to watch the simulation as part of their visit to SCC. Faculty from nursing, cosmetology and EMS programs also observed.
“These types of projects show how important teamwork is among the professions of EMS and nursing when providing care. These two medical professions will forever work closely together to provide extraordinary care to those in our communities long after they have completed their degree from SCC,” Underwood said.
A debriefing was provided to students by Dr. Doug Underwood, director of SCC’s Emergency Medical Programs, and Dr. Andrea Underwood to provide feedback about the simulation.
“We discussed what went right, what went wrong, and how we could improve patient care in these types of situations,” she said. “I would like to thank Dr. Doug Underwood for working closely with me on the project to make it a successful day for all those involved. I am grateful for the hard work put in by cosmetology, nursing and EMS programs and for taking time to make this such a great experience for all those involved.”