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Flight nursing students save the day at dramatic disaster simulation

Ross Wasserstrom

Issue date: 8/28/09 Section: News
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Media Credit: Michael Ruszala
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On Friday, August 14, 45 people from the Case Western Reserve community volunteered to simulate terrible injuries in a large-scale disaster drill at Case Western's Squire Valleevue Farm. The National Flight Nursing Academy (NFNA) held the event as the culmination of a four-day summer camp, hosted by the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.

The volunteers were treated for 'injuries' that included massive blood loss and internal injuries, imitating injuries common to the simulated scenario: an earthquake-triggered gas explosion at a popular picnic site. Some of the volunteers were drenched in fake blood, while others assumed concussions and broken limbs. The injuries simulated were meant to be life-threatening enough to require the use of air emergency medical services.

The Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western has hosted the summer camp, as well as the disaster simulation, annually since 2003. The NFNA is partnered with Metro Health and the Cleveland Clinic for the event, which was held from August 10-14. Aside from the catastrophe training, the summer camp included instructive lectures and surgical skill simulations. This year, the events were held at the Mt. Sinai Simulation Center in Cleveland and at the Squire Valleevue Farm in Hunting Valley.

Cory Cocco, a Junior Nursing student, was recruited as a volunteer victim for Friday's simulation. "I was a victim that was blown back into a wooded area," he said via email. "I attempted to get a little creative and pretended that I was impaled with a large piece of tree."

The air support was provided by the Metro Health System in the form of two helicopters. The flight nurses, a specialized class of advanced-degree nurses, were training for a large-scale emergency in an unstructured environment. Since most of the classroom training has neither the realism nor the urgency of the Aug. 14 simulation, Case's farm property was made up to look as realistic as possible.

Cocco's experience highlights the variety of injuries treated by the flight nursing crew. In a large-scale disaster, the initial event, in this case an earthquake, is only part of the danger; Cocco's reproduced injuries demonstrated how many factors should be considered by a first-response emergency team such as the Flight Nurses.
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