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UNG departments collaborate for mass casualty practice

Mass casualty training 2016
Nursing students discuss strategy for treatments and team communication before they travel to classrooms that have been set up to simulate an incident that produced dozens of "casualties."

When a catastrophic event occurs, having responders with experience can be a critical asset. To help healthcare students and campus police officers enhance their skills, several departments at the University of North Georgia (UNG) collaborated to hold a mock mass casualty event on March 1.

"Emergency preparedness and training is a normal part of the nursing curriculum," said Dr. Carolynn DeSandre, assistant professor of nursing and director of inter-professional education and community engagement. "Having an event on this scale with multiple departments involved gives a real feeling of emergency and provides opportunities for the students to exercise many skills that are difficult to teach in the classroom, including leadership and assessment. It also helps us all to recognize ways that we can improve our responses in these kinds of events."

This type of training is also routinely undertaken by UNG's Office of Public Safety to prepare its officers to respond in any type of emergency.

The exercise was tailored to look like a mass shooting and involved the university's departments of nursing, physical therapy and public safety, which allowed for a greater feeling of collaboration and community, according to Dr. Teresa Conner-Kerr, dean of UNG's College of Health Sciences & Professions.

"It was very important to us when we began planning this event several months ago that we involve any department we felt could benefit from the experience," Conner-Kerr said. "We hope to make this a community-involved event in the future to broaden the scope of those who can learn from the experience while forming valuable community and university bonds."

Senior nursing student Becca Zaricor said the event offered a unique chance to practice skills in a lifelike environment, especially skills that require more hands-on learning.

"We will be doing assessments and triage, and trying to prioritize care for nearly 70 victims," Zaricor said as she and her fellow students prepared for the event.

In total, the event involved 120 students in the Bachelor of Science (BSN) in nursing program, 40 students in the Master of Science family nurse practitioner program, and several officers from the Office of Public Safety. The master's degree students served as team leaders, directing the BSN students in their care, while officers were posted in each room to simulate a secured building and provide any necessary aid.

"This is a great chance for our officers to practice what happens after we remove a threat," said Capt. Greg Williams, coordinator for emergency preparedness. "So much of our training deals with how to protect people and deal with threats or dangerous situations, and this is more focused on first response and providing emergency medical care. We also appreciate the opportunity to work directly with students to develop trust and understanding."

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