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Disaster Drill

Nursing Simulation
The nursing students were assigned roles within the simulation. Some acted as victims, while others provided nursing care.

When disaster strikes, Widener University nursing students will be ready.

That’s because on Oct. 11 approximately 155 seniors in the School of Nursing responded to an emergency simulation – a fiery explosion at the Talen Energy Stadium in Chester. The students put their classroom lessons to use in the real-time scenario.

“In today’s world, disaster and emergency events are happening more frequently,” said Dawn Ferry, director of the Center for Simulation and Computerized Testing. “When disaster hits, medical first responders must have the knowledge and experience to act quickly and effectively. These drills are an advantage for our students because it gives them real world experiences ahead of their clinical careers.”

The annual disaster simulation gives senior nursing students an opportunity to understand the protocols for emergency situations and practice triaging victims.

This year, for the first time, the simulation was held off campus at the Union home and included 35 local, county and state emergency response agencies and medical centers across eight states and three counties. The list of partnering agencies included the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Public Health Preparedness, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Surge Medical Assistance Response Team, Crozer-Chester Medical Center, Chester Police Department and Chester Fire Department.

Cayla Weirbach, a senior nursing student, was surprised to see so many police, fire and EMS personnel at the drill.

“I thought that was really cool, and it added to the experience,” she said.

Each nursing student was assigned a role as either a bystander, victim or nurse. The nurses had to assign the 100 victims – dressed in full make-up to portray various injuries – to triage units based on the severity of injuries. The victims were then transported in ambulances to the participating hospitals, where the simulation continued with medical personnel involved in the training.

Weirbach was assigned the role of a Level 2 victim with a broken, bloody nose. As her classmates assessed her injury to determine the severity, she said the experience showed her the importance of quickly prioritizing injuries in an emergency.

“It is important for us to learn this because, unfortunately, nowadays this can happen anywhere in the world,” Weirbach said. “We have to be ready.”

After the simulation, the students and regional partners participated in a debriefing panel discussion with nursing faculty. The debriefing focused on all areas of triage from trauma control to mental health, as well as the outcomes of coordinated efforts between regional institutions.

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