Simulating Disaster ECU’s Brody School of Medicine practices mass trauma response

Students in the Emergency Medicine Interest Group at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine held a mock disaster exercise April 8 on the medical school campus.

The scene replicated the aftermath of a mass casualty event and featured live simulated victims, triage drills, medical skills practice stations, an ambulance, a simulated emergency department trauma bay and a U.S. Army Forward Surgical Team. It was the second annual disaster simulation hosted by the Emergency Medicine Interest Group.

[Warning: while only simulated with make-up and acting, photos may be considered graphic for some viewers.]

Guidance was provided throughout the day by faculty and staff from ECU’s Interprofessional Clinical Simulation Program, ECU emergency medicine faculty, Pitt County Emergency Medical Services personnel and U.S. Army Forward Surgical Team representatives.

8 undergraduate pre-medical and theater students volunteered to play the roles of explosion victims in various stages of injury.

Enveloped in a soundtrack of explosions, shattering glass, crumbling structures and blaring sirens, 24 medical student participants took turns acting as first responders, rapidly triaging each patient with a colored tag:

  • black (unlikely to survive)
  • red (requires immediate intervention and transport)
  • yellow (transport can be delayed)
  • green (relatively minor injuries)
“The great thing about today is hands-on experience. They teach us these steps in class, but it’s different when you’re in an actual situation and patients are screaming and in pain. These are definitely things you can only learn in a hands-on situation.”

– first-year medical student Kelsey Evans

The exercise culminated in a simulated emergency department trauma bay, where students received instruction on resuscitating patients and performing critical interventions, and where they could practice handling multiple trauma patients at one time.

“This was a really stressful and exciting exercise to do the first time around, a little nerve-wracking, to decide what state each patient is in and separate resources accordingly – especially when you have patients who are anxious all around you. You can’t learn this in a classroom.”

– First-year medical student Kaitlyn O’Connor

“Some of these medical students have never done this before. This is their first opportunity to do hands-on procedures they’ve learned in class.”

– Dr. Roberto Portella, medical director, Pitt County Emergency Medical Services, and clinical assistant professor in emergency medicine

Everyone gathered post-exercise for a debriefing that gave students, actors and educators the opportunity to talk through their thought processes and learn where more education would be beneficial.

Created By
Kelly Setzer


Photos and video by Cliff Hollis

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