Learning through disaster: training exercise for hospital staff and students

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A mass casualty training exercise held at Sydney Adventist Hospital (the San) has exposed its staff to a simulated bomb blast to recreate the challenges they might need to deal with in such a disaster.

The Emergency Care medical registrars, nurses, and students from the onsite University of Sydney Medical School and Avondale College Faculty of Health and Nursing were involved.

The simulated mass casualty incident enacted a scenario of a bomb blast in the basement of the hospital’s Clinical Education Centre with 12  medical and nursing school ‘casualties’ sustaining serious injuries like burns, compound fractures and neck wounds.

Joined for the exercise by four nurses from Concord Hospital, the hospital’s Emergency Care registrars and nurses formed separate teams managing both the ‘disaster zone’ and the ‘emergency department’ of the Centre’s Simulation Ward. Both teams collaborated ‘stabilising, transferring, triaging and treating’ the casualties.

The exercise was organised by Dr Keith Edwards from Sydney Adventist’s Emergency Care Department and the medical school’s Educator Ms Kia Liao-Mackun, both experienced in running mass casualty disaster education and training sessions designed to maximise learning opportunities.

Ms Liao-Mackun said the Clinical Education Centre provided an exceptional learning environment.

“The fully equipped simulation ward sets the San apart from other hospitals providing a unique opportunity for ongoing professional development for experienced staff and for training of future health care professionals,” said Ms Liao-Mackun.

Dr Edwards agreed the real-life disaster scenario created an intense environment.

“All participants were impressed about how real the situation felt.

“Their level of anxiety was heightened during the exercise… but they felt it was an excellent experience and that they learnt a lot,” Dr Edwards said.

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