Critical Care Lessons Outside of the Classroom

On July 2, 2014, Penn’s School of Nursing conducted its second annual summer mass casualty emergency simulation exercise in Fagin Hall in the Helene Fuld Pavilion.

More than 80 senior-level nursing students enrolled in the School’s “Nursing in the Community” course were joined by about 20 actors and facilitators—simulation instructors who are trained by the School of Nursing to assist and debrief in simulation scenarios.

The gruesome scene had all the characteristics of a true emergency with actors and facilitators posing as victims of serious injuries and trauma. The air filled with smoke, and there was chaos and noise as students cared for the injured. The nursing students also got a lesson in emergency medicine by applying critical care utilizing more than 10 high-fidelity patient simulators—computerized manikins that can be programmed to mimic physical responses to medical interventions such as CPR and defibrillation.

Working with experts from Penn Nursing, the Division of Public Safety, and the School of Social Policy & Practice, as well as emergency preparedness, safety, and management staff at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the students conducted an assessment of scene safety, identified a team leader, identified their roles to their team, triaged patients, provided basic life support, and identified available resources, such as the incident command center, Penn Police, and social workers.

The School of Nursing conducts the emergency simulations twice a year in the summer and fall. The daylong exercise ended with Ann Marie Hoyt-Brennan, instructor and simulation education specialist for the School of Nursing, who coordinated the exercise, leading a debriefing session during which participants provided feedback to the students on their performance and shared their expertise.

Text by Amanda Mott
Photos by Scott Spitzer