Penn State Nursing Students Prepare to Respond to a Disaster

It could be argued that nurses receive too little credit for the job functions that they perform.  Oftentimes nurses are among the first medical professionals to attend to a person who is admitted to the hospital with catastrophic injuries, and the care given to them by nurses is often lifesaving.  With this in mind, students studying nursing at Penn State are getting disaster training in order to be best able to provide such critical medical attention in disaster scenarios. In a simulated ‘real life’ program, students receive training that could help them better respond to situations involving mass casualties.

Simulated Emergency with the National Guard in Pennsylvania

Recently, seniors graduating from Penn State’s nursing program were taken to an area near an Air National Guard base in Pennsylvania and presented with a horrific scene.  They encountered a man with severe burns to his torso, a woman in labor, a body lying on the ground, and others in distress, all needing immediate medical attention.

The scene was part of a disaster response training program designed to help the nursing students become more prepared to deal with the realities of disaster response by putting them directly into a simulated emergency.

Assessing Injuries and Responding to the Simulated Disaster

The simulated disasters ranged from a bus rollover to a train derailment.  Students were required to respond to injuries ranging from severe eyeball lacerations to a person whose intestines were exposed.  In responding to the emergencies the nursing students were required to categorize the injuries, perform the proper triage, and even make tough decisions as to which victims and injuries to treat first, based on the perceived severity and treatability of the injuries.

For example, someone who had suffered a heart attack in a disaster scenario where quick transportation to the hospital was not an option, may have been passed over in favor of someone whose injuries were more directly treatable in the field.

Overall, the program is part of an ongoing effort by the administrators of the Penn State nursing program to better prepare its nursing graduates for even the most difficult of emergency situations.