It is not every day you see a whole community come together to prepare for the worst. However, every three years, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires each community’s emergency services to participate in mock disaster drills to prepare for the unthinkable.
On August 16, 2017, more than 90 Nursing and Health Sciences students and faculty members from the Rasmussen College – Green Bay campus headed to the Austin Straubel International Airport to participate in a full-scale mock airplane crash exercise.
Three years ago, the Green Bay campus sent 35 nursing students to participate in a similar event. This year, Julie Williams, Rasmussen College dean of nursing, wanted all of the students currently participating in clinicals to have a chance to experience a real-world disaster in a controlled environment.
Upon arriving at the airport, volunteers were assigned their role for the day and were given a corresponding colored tag. Green tags were for actors with no injuries, yellow tags indicated individuals with minor injuries, red tags signified the volunteer was critically injured and black tags denoted death.
More than 40 volunteers were told they were on the crashed flight and had to lay across the tarmac to wait for emergency personnel. Others were told they were to act as family members of the injured and were instructed to flood to the local hospitals. Those who had minor injuries were escorted off the airfield and sent to medical facilities. Actors with more major injuries were assessed on the tarmac, put on backboards and transported by ambulance to a local hospital.
Current Nursing student, Sam Steckbauer, was thrilled to be able to participate in the event. Upon arriving, he was assigned a black tag and was instructed to play dead on the tarmac. “I was very interested to see a trauma situation in action. Everyone took it very seriously, and it was very cool to see the community come together,” he said.
Two years ago, Steckbauer experienced trauma first-hand when he was the first responder to a jet skiing accident. “At the time, I was going to school to become a dentist, but being the one in the position to help and potentially save someone’s life made me realize I was going to school for the wrong thing; nursing was really what I wanted to do,” he said.
Being a part of the mock crash reaffirmed Steckbauer’s passion to work in a trauma-filled environment—specifically, a children’s hospital emergency room. “Witnessing this event made me realize you need to remain calm in these situations. You can’t show fear, or people will sense that. It is the responsibility of the emergency personnel to make it a better scene for everyone involved,” he said.
The Rasmussen College – Green Bay campus is a member of the Green Bay Healthcare Alliance, a group of education and healthcare institutions that work together to provide students with clinical opportunities and foster the future healthcare workforce. With many graduates of the campus staying and working within the community after graduation, “It is important for them to get accustomed to community practices and the systems in place,” Williams said. Participating in events such as the mock-crash gives students exposure to those situations.
“The event is really about seeing how the city handles an event of that nature and prepares for a real emergency,” said Williams. “It is feasible in the event of a real emergency in our community that our Nursing and Health Sciences students could be called in to help.”
While volunteers witnessed EMS teams, first responders, firefighters, police and hospital staff practice their roles, the experience provided even more to the students participating, according to Williams. “Participating in this exercise helped develop our students’ critical thinking and assessment skills while also giving back to our community. It was such a valuable experience.”
For more information about Rasmussen College’s School of Nursing and School of Health Sciences, click here.