Designing Disaster Students hold annual mass casuality simulation

On a bright Saturday morning, screams filled ECU's Brody School of Medicine. But the students there weren't surprised. They were participating in the third annual Disaster Day, a mock mass casualty event created to prepare them for real life emergencies.

This year's simulated disaster? An explosion at a 5K race in Washington, North Carolina.

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

Hosted by the Emergency Medicine Interest Group, the event is the largest student-run simulation at Brody. First- and second-year medical students were given training in several triage techniques and resource allocation before being sent into the simulation.

"Unfortunately we keep having more mass casualty events and it's not just emergency and disaster medicine physicians who end up dealing with these situations. A lot of times they end up pulling other physicians from within a hospital to help deal with the situation. So this is a wonderful way to get exposure on what the expectations are, what will be going on, and how it’s supposed to be dealt with."

-Daniel Jourdan, event organizer

Once the simulation began, students were given cards representing their limited resources. They were instructed to assess multiple patients and determine what resources each required - all within five minutes. Afterward, emergency medicine physicians met with the students to review and discuss their choices.

“I like the simulation of the mass casualty because it really puts me out of my element. Everything else so far has been pretty controlled in terms of the setting so this is the first time where the point is to surprise you, take you out of your comfort zone and see you function in that setting. It’s good to figure that out while it’s still low stakes."

-Amber Gautam, second-year medical student

Students were given the opportunity to learn life-saving triage techniques from local emergency medicine physicians. Training sessions included:

  • Tourniquet application
  • Wound care
  • Chest decompressions
  • Patient immobilization
  • Extremity splints

By the numbers

  • 1 hour to create realistic looking wounds using makeup
  • 5 emergency medicine physicians volunteered to train students
  • 8 student organizers
  • 12 theater and pre-med students posing as victims
  • 26 medical student participants
"We like to have hands-on events so that students can be reminded of why they came to medical school. You came here to treat patients, interact and save lives. And a lot of the things we do here are what they do in the emergency department. So the more exposure you get to simulations like these, the better you’re going to be able to respond when it’s real life and actually happening.”

- AJ Parker, event organizer

Students participate in the third annual Disaster Day
“It’s one thing to read a textbook but it’s another to come out and actually practice. I really appreciate that.”

-Andrew Ray, second-year medical student

Created By
Angela Todd


Words by Angela Todd | Photos by Cliff Hollis

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