Behind the Scenes Extra: What It’s Like to Participate in a Mass Casualty Drill

By Matt Martin

Last September’s mass casualty exercise not only allowed UC Health physicians and staff the opportunity to prepare for this real life situation, but also students at the University of Cincinnati.

On Sept. 19, 2019, UC Health, alongside 30 community organizations, took part in the Health Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati’s Mass Casualty Incident exercise. The drill — in this case, a vehicle causing a gas explosion at Great American Ball Park — tested more than 100 clinicians and staff across UC Health through true-to-life scenarios.

Hundreds of volunteers, including 143 UC College of Nursing freshmen students, participated as patient actors for the drill.

“It’s extremely important for the students to be involved because this is their first exposure to a situation like this in healthcare,” said Robin Wagner, director of skills and simulation at the UC College of Nursing.

Volunteers came down to Great American Ball Park early on this Thursday morning to prepare. Makeup artists were on hand to help make these volunteers look like they suffered serious injuries.

Maggie, a freshman nursing student from Anderson Township, knows this experience will influence her future career as a nurse.

“If I’m ever in a hospital and something like this happens, I feel like I will remember this exercise as a freshman,” said Maggie. “I’ll be able to handle it better.”

At 7:45 a.m., all of the actors came down into the lower seating section of Great American Ball Park to get their assignments. Patients would either board buses to local hospitals, or remain on the concourse of the ballpark to wait for assistance from first responders.

Nick Durbin, a fourth year student at the UC College of Nursing, acted as one of those first responders. He always knew that UC was the place he wanted to go for nursing.

“They have an excellent program, and they prepare you for the future of nursing rather than just what the present nursing technology is today,” Nick said.

At the time of the drill, he was doing his co-op at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in their float pool, where he worked in the ICU and general care. His role during the drill was to help treat badly injured victims. He saw this exercise as an opportunity to better prepare him in the future.

“I think it’s important for all people in society as well as the people in the forefront of healthcare to take the time to learn how to deal with mass casualties like this,” Nick said. “So if the day does come, you have the ability to save as many people as you possibly can.”

This day will be remembered as an important one for all of the students involved as they continue down their paths in healthcare. Robin hopes that the community will continue to work together in the future if these events actually occur.

“It’s very important for the community to understand that the simulation is a way for healthcare professionals and everyone who’s involved today to be able to practice something that may not happen very often, but it’s very important for that when it does happen, everyone is on their game,” Robin said. “The best way to do this is in a safe, controlled environment.”

A true mass casualty will require all departments around UC Health to be ready. Having this drill allowed students to get valuable experience that will give them the ability to save as many lives as possible and make a greater impact on the Cincinnati community.

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