The mock disaster included drug overdoses, bullet wounds, hysterical witnesses and multiple casualties. The aftermath of a bloody and lethal party turned home invasion was the setting for the realistic trauma scene.
Organized by Simulated Patient Health Environment for Research and Education (SPHERE) and the Criminal Justice program, this event saw students from the Emergency Medical Technician, Nursing and Criminal Justice programs working together to respond to victims in a mock disaster situation.
Sheri Wright, chair of SPHERE spent many late nights planning and preparing the day’s events to make sure that curriculum requirements were fulfilled for all programs involved.
“Blood, injuries, vomit and even scents were a part of this situation. So students got the closest experience possible that they would get in a real life situation. After today, they have some idea of how to handle a situation like this once they get into the real world,” said Wright.
SPHERE events happen regularly on campus, however Wright says this was the first time students were able to experience multiple deaths and an overflow of emergency care victims.
“There were two people that died and over 20 victims all with varying degrees of injury. We used a colour coding system to determine who required help in which order. Some didn’t make it and students had to realistically respond to that situation.”
Wright also praised the students for maintaining a calm and collected approach to the situation.
Throughout the event, volunteers were used to act as the victims and patients.
As first responders arrived on scene, victims were triaged and transported to one of two make-shift campus hospitals.
Michelle Moors is a lab technician who works in simulation at Lethbridge College. Her role throughout the day’s events was to oversee the mock hospital sites. She says this scenario is crucial to student’s education.
“Event’s like this do such a good job teaching students the things they can’t learn from a powerpoint. The practical hands-on stuff and the unplanned things that arise are great teachable moments that you can only get by experiencing them,” said Moors.
According to Moors, patients were spilt between triage and emergency based on the extent of their injuries.
Once patients were stabilized or subdued, additional diagnostics were ordered, including medical imaging, tests and scans in an order which mimics a real hospital scenario.
Students were required to treat the unfolding events as they would in a real-life situation.
For the criminal justice students this meant collecting statements, and controlling the situation while allowing the injured to receive necessary treatment.
Moors says the collaboration is vital to the situation and working collectively is one of the most important lessons students needed to take away from the day’s events.
“There is no method to the madness, students have to deal with chaos just as they would have to in the hospital if the police came in to collect statements, but everyone handled it amazingly.”
Second year Criminal justice student Gary Gill had the opportunity to collect statements from those involved with the situation.
Gill says organizers did a great job structuring this event like a real-life situation and it gave all parties involved the chance to put their classroom skills to the test.
“The biggest thing I noticed is that once you actually are put in this position it’s a whole new world. It’s not as easy as it is in class. You have to think on your feet and try your best to remember everything you learned while things are falling apart.”
Gill continued by praising the work the college is doing to prepare students for the workforce.
“Hosting situations like this give us students the opportunity to put all our theory training into action in one afternoon. It all felt so real, it was incredible.”
Wright says, exercises like Friday afternoons mock disaster are put on in hopes of solidifying readiness and protecting students during every possible scenario.
“Having realistic situations like this for students allows them to see how they will react in real-life. Only here they have a full support staff to back them up and there is no real danger to anyone involved,” said Wright.
Giving the students the chance to experience situations such as this allow them to make mistakes with no deadly aftermath is an important part of SPHERE’s events throughout the year.
Wright believe the hours of preparation and detail that went into these simulations will prove invaluable for the student’s future.
“Ultimately we do this for the students. The more prepared they are when they leave this campus the better it is for them, and the people they will be helping day in, day out later in life.”