LA CROSSE, Wis. - You never know when a tragedy will strike, but the best way to be prepared is by practice. That’s what the future nurses studying at Viterbo University did Friday at a mass casualty training event in the school’s simulation lab.
Classroom learning is an important part of any education, but sometimes it takes some real experience to know just what you're getting into.
"Having considered working in an emergency department, this was a really good taste of it to start out my nursing career,” nursing student Ashley DeMoe said.
The first-time mass casualty simulation at Viterbo’s nursing school began by telling the nursing students they’re on lockdown and there’s a person of concern on campus.
Viterbo nursing students like DeMoe and Brandy Kummer were met with a scene like no other they've ever witnessed -- several victims on the ground who had been stabbed.
"It felt really real,” Kummer said.
They were expected to use their training to help the injured students, who were played by theater students, the best they could.
"This is my first semester in the program,” Kummer said. “It was a little scary because I have no knowledge whatsoever, so I was really freaked out when I heard the people screaming and I walked in and it was really overwhelming."
"I think it's important for them to get that feel,” Kerri Busteed, professor at Viterbo and simulation coordinator, said. "I know they're not real victims, but this gives them a safe avenue to practice these things. It gives them the feeling of being able to be involved in it. It still gives you that adrenaline rush. You're still excited, still nervous."
Students still had to care for the attacker who was injured as well, and learn the hard lesson that they can't save everyone.
“If somebody dies, are you OK with letting them die and move on to somebody else who's injured?” Busteed said. “It's a tough thing to do."
Despite the quick crash course in mass causality emergency response, DeMoe said it's not stopping her from returning to the classroom.
"It didn't scare me off,” she said.
Afterward, students participated in a debriefing session where they could talk through what they felt and learned during the simulation.
The welcome-back simulation event at the nursing school put students through different scenarios all day Friday, including a simulated birth and a pediatric emergency scenario.
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