Posted on Oct 21, 2019

USF Health Students Tested in Mock Tornado Disaster

USF Health Students Tested in Mock Tornado Disaster

Fresh off a nasty weather weekend that saw Tropical Storm Nestor-spawned tornadoes hit neighborhoods in Tampa Bay, students from USF Health faced a similar, yet simulated threat in classrooms on Monday.

Simulation educators from the USF College of Nursing created a mock disaster zone where a tornado ripped through a building as injured actor patients suffering from burns, impalements, and other blunt trauma to the extremities waited to be saved.

“It felt real, because that’s the way we designed it,” said Nursing Assistant Dean Teresa Gore, PhD, DNP, FNP-BC, NP-C, CHSE-A, FAAN, to a room full of USF Health students from nursing, public health, athletic training, physician assistant, and pharmacy programs. “We had an immersion simulation, because you were there. This is what happens when a tornado hits a neighborhood.”

The one-hour disaster simulation was set up to attack all the senses and to teach the critical skills of teamwork and communication during an emergency situation.

A fog machine emitted puffs of simulated smoke, creating a billowy haze. Overturned chairs and medical supplies were strewn on the floor where actor patients and manikins lay in darkened rooms and hallways.

Chunks of the ceiling and large cables dangled from the ceiling. A tornado siren blared, while a speaker spewed the howls of the wind. Box fans were on full blast. A weather radar showed the reds and oranges of a major hurricane swirling on computer monitors.

Dr. Gore said the simulation is designed as an interprofessional learning experience where students come in overwhelmed, but have to assess the situation, overcome the chaos, establish a plan and work together as a team.

“You have to work together. You have to communicate. The majority of medical errors is from communication errors,” she said. “That’s why we do this.”

In the debriefing, some students noted how some patients, who were awaiting the ambulance in a monitoring room, would get up and walk around. Many were crying out with angry bursts. Some didn’t want to leave their friends.

Students commented about how they weren’t sure how to deal with the patients’ anger and anxiety. Others noted that they could have done a better job monitoring and tracking patients, even possibly giving some patients with minor injuries a task to help. Some didn’t realize there were potentially useful supplies lying on the ground, such as stray water bottles, candy and a clipboard.

The interprofessional exercise brought together students from various USF Health disciplines who all had varying levels of clinical and first aid training.

“That is our hope — to learn to work together as a team,” Dr. Gore said. “It doesn’t matter what you’re trained in. This is everybody.” 

Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing