The students knew that there would be an emergency drill this quarter, but they did not know when it would occur or what the circumstances would be. At the appointed time, an announcement went out over the speaker system stating that the campus was on lockdown and everyone should stay in their classrooms or offices and lock the doors. A few moments later, the “all clear” announcement was made.
Campus Director Stacy Severson and Campus Librarian Carol Roos then approached the classroom where students in Leadership and Management in Nursing were studying. Stacy told the students that there had been an incident on campus and that the paramedics had been called, but there were several shooting victims* throughout the building and any assistance the nursing students could provide until the paramedics arrived would be appreciated. Nursing Instructor Karla Mees put students into groups and off they went running.
On the first floor, the students encountered a victim with a gunshot wound. They put what they had learned into practice by helping the victim lie down while elevating her feet to increase blood-flow to the head. The students applied pressure to the “wound,” checked vital signs, and once the victim was stabilized, went to find more victims.
Students on the third, fourth and fifth floors encountered more shooting victims. Again, they assisted in applying pressure to the wounds and assessed vital signs. Two groups of students obtained much needed supplies from the lab, such as saline solution, IVs, gloves and gauze. Once the paramedics arrived, the students were responsible for reporting the patients’ statuses to them.
Upon returning to the classroom, the students discussed the experience with their instructors. Some students felt that they were not given enough information to assess the victim’s wounds. One victim was catatonic and would not speak, so the nurses assisting her could do little but check her for wounds and try to get her to talk. Instructor Becky Vlach told the students that in a real life scenario, they may just encounter such victims. “A psychological patient is going to be the hardest to assess. This was not an ideal situation, it was reality. We want you guys to think critically,” she explained.
The students discussed the importance of keeping victims calm, as screaming or yelling increases bleeding. They also noted the importance of crowd control: “You don’t want extra people around,” remarked one student. They even mentioned protecting a patient’s HIPAA rights (as a certain blogger may have been taking photos of our victims).
Instructors told the students that they should always practice ISBAR: Identify, Situation, Background, Assessment and Recommendations. Everyone agreed that communication is key in an emergency situation.
“People are afraid in these situations. In a real-life scenario you wouldn’t have all of these supplies — you work with what you have,” said Becky.
Instructor Karla said, “In the real world, you might have to just grab people and say, ‘Come help me.’”
All participants agreed that the exercise was helpful. Becky said, “It helps you be better aware of where you are and where the equipment is. It gets you thinking: if I was at the mall, what would I do?”
One student commented, “It helps you quickly assess in a critical situation.”
And that’s how we make great nurses.
*No humans were actually harmed in the making of this emergency drill.