Very little can prepare you for tragedy, but for the nursing students at the University of Saint Francis Crown Point, their future job is to be prepared. On Saturday morning, the University of Saint Francis Crown Point Emergency Medical Services Academy, Franciscan Health Crown Point, social workers, and the Lake County Coroner’s Department all came together to simulate a disaster situation where nursing students and EMS trainees were tasked with handling the fallout of a high-speed multi-car pileup.
The simulation involved more than 170 people all filling different roles, victims, traumatized family members, hospital nurses, first responders, a chaplain, and more. Students had to remove victims from their vehicles, provide on-site emergency care, and transport them to one of a handful of “designated hospitals” inside the university.
“This is probably the only way they’re going to experience something like this,” said Kimberly Valich, MSN, RN, and Nursing Professor at the University of Saint Francis. “This is a safe way to do that and figure out how to treat patients in a multi-vehicle situation.”
Every victim had different levels of injury, and some “died” on scene. The student’s tasks was to minimize causalities and get patients either stabilized or discharged. The scenario also threw various complications at the students, such as a ranting bystander, a parent who lost their child, and patient coding on admission.
“The students have the book learning, research, and all of these bits and pieces,” said Lisa Young, Director of the Simulation Lab and Nursing Resource Center at the University of Saint Francis. “This is putting all of that together into application. There could be things that they realize they didn’t know how to do, like a detail in a certain procedure they didn’t understand, or even how to ask patients certain questions. You can read all of that, but once you’re put into a simulation you’ll find questions you didn’t even know you had.”
This is the university’s fifth year hosting the event, and it grows larger and more elaborate each time. In this most recent scenario, admissions staff dealt with distraught family members, victims acted combative in their grief, and some patients even needed to transfer to different hospitals. University faculty, professional EMS, and Franciscan Health nurses all supported and evaluated the students’ performances so that they could break down areas for improvement in a debriefing session.
“The students really love it,” Valich said. “They’re nervous in the beginning, but they really enjoy it once it’s done. It helps them be that little bit more prepared.”
JoEllen Walma is a nursing student in her third semester at the University of Saint Francis, and this was her first time participating in the simulation. She was part of the nursing team that provided immediate care to victims that had just been removed from their vehicles.
“Overall it went very well, everyone worked together to help the patients,” Walma said. “This will be very useful, especially for someone like me. I want to be an ER nurse, so it’s very practical.”
To learn more about the University of Saint Francis Crown Point, visit crownpoint.sf.edu.