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Stephen F. Austin State University


SFA nursing students conduct disaster simulation drill

Senior nursing students enrolled in Stephen F. Austin State University's DeWitt School of Nursing strap a patient to a backboard during a disaster simulation drill. The drills are organized by fourth semester nursing students and are conducted every fall and spring semester to encourage disaster preparedness.
NACOGDOCHES, Texas -- Senior nursing students from Stephen F. Austin State University's DeWitt School of Nursing treated "patients" and assessed injuries during a recent disaster simulation drill designed to help the students develop disaster preparedness.

The drills are conducted by fourth semester nursing students each fall and spring semester to teach them how to better react in an uncontrolled environment.

"While we hope we never have to put these skills to use, it's important to have adequate training so we will have the proper nursing skills that become instinct when faced with highly stressful situations," said Julianna Pisano, an SFA simulation team leader from Longview.

Pisano and Brice Holloway of San Augustine were selected as team leaders by their classmates and spent the semester planning the simulation, working with nursing faculty and staff to gather supplies and set up. They also coordinated with the Nacogdoches Fire Department to ensure the simulation was as realistic as possible.

Students spent the week of the simulation learning the specific skills involved, such as transporting patients on backboards and prioritizing patients for treatment.

The scenario - a car driving through a crowd at a festival - was enacted twice, ensuring each student was given ample time to act as both a patient and a nurse. Nurses triaged patients according to the severity of their injuries before walking or carrying them on backboards to treatment areas while patients trapped in the car were extracted by firefighters and assisted by nurses.

"It can be total chaos, but as I remind the students, a disaster is chaos," said Dr. Della Connor, associate professor in the DeWitt School of Nursing. "If we knew what was going to happen and how to handle it, it would be a controlled simulation with the mannequins in our building."

The school started conducting the drills as a response to present-day threats, Connor said, and is just one more way it prepares students to be successful nurses.

"I think it's safe to say that everyone in our class entered the field of nursing to help people, and expanding our knowledge and skills enable us to be more effective nurses," Pisano said.