Thirty bodies were spread out in the parking lot of Building D at the Navarro College Waxahachie campus. The color red stained several individuals’ shirts, while multiple bruises, cuts and lacerations could be seen on their bodies.
A few laid buried underneath a Toyota Tundra as they cried out for help as first responders rushed to their aid. One responder asked a victim for a name, but he couldn’t remember. Another one screamed as she was put onto a stretcher and carried away.
Thankfully, there were no injuries or casualties reported from the scene.
That’s because this “accident” was a simulation put on by the Navarro Emergency Services and Nursing programs as part to of a multi-casualty incident training exercise to prepare graduates for the real-world situations their professions demand.
“It looks like chaos,” associate nursing professor Heather Hall stated. “But really it was controlled chaos.”
Although the MCI drill is organized semesterly by the Navarro Emergency Services program, the one held Friday at the Waxahachie campus marked the first occasion where the nursing program collaborated with the Emergency Services department.
The drill kicked off with skills coordinator Jose Urias sending out a call to all units regarding a multi-casualty incident, with an Emergency Services District 6 ambulance and a Forreston Fire Department truck responding to the scene. As emergency personnel arrived, their job was to check in with the “victims” of the accident on-site, observe their injuries and dictate the needed treatment for the victims’ wounds.
Nursing graduate student Kelsey Thetford was part of the first medical unit out with Medic One, where they dictated whether a victim’s wounds were ambulatory, severe or critical. She then prioritized with color cards which needed to be treated first, with green being minor injuries and red being the most serious.
“We were the first on the scene," Thetford explained. “The very first crew to tag patients and transport them to the treatment and transport teams. We knew what our goal was. Nobody had seen these patients yet. Nobody had assessed, they hadn’t been tagged at all, and that was our number one priority. We needed to find people that we could save – and people we definitely couldn’t save.”
After patients were tagged, they were transported to the ambulance bay, where they were given on-site treatment until CareFlite and American Medical Response responded to the scene and could transport the patients to a hospital for medical care.
Urias explained that the MCI drill would typically end with transporting the patients. But with the nursing program, they added a new extension to the exercise where responders transported the patients to the “hospital” in Building C where patients were further assessed and treated by the on-site nurses.
Urias stated that incorporating the nursing department brought a new – and necessary – layer to their MCI drill.
“It definitely made things more complicated,” Urias expressed. “We’ve never delivered patients to the hospital before. All of that was new - the hospital simulation and using the nursing program. They need to be prepared should an incident ever happen to the field, because eventually, those patients are going to make it to the hospital.”
Hall stated that the drill was high-intensity and required first responders and nurses to take improvisational, decisive action regarding the unexpected challenges they faced during the simulation.
“It never goes perfectly,” Hall expressed. “There’s always little speed bumps, which we’ve created in this drill. We had people showing up looking for their children. We had security issues. We eve had the ‘news media’ show up. We were trying to control all of that.”
Yet, even with the planned distractions in the simulation, there were still several mishaps that threw responders into a flurry of confusion and disarray.
For instance, the “hospital” was never notified by responders of when patients were coming into the building.
“The hospital never got called,” Hall stated. “People just started showing up. I actually called the hospital, because I knew they were on their way.”
Thetford stated that she definitely felt the pressures of the quick-paced scenario. But then, Navarro College prepared her for many of those pressures she faced in the simulation.
“I wouldn’t say it was stressful,” Thetford expressed. “More like exhilarating. Nursing comes innately with a certain level of stress. The program’s been really good about equipping us with the knowledge and skills to work through those situations.”
Hall considered the collaboration an overall success, with a total of 150-200 participants, including the program’s students and the firefighters and first responders that volunteered for the simulation.
“This is the largest drill we’ve ever had,” Hall expressed. “To have so many first responders, fire and everybody working together is just incredible. It was a huge success.”
Urias shared the same sentiment, adding that this experience has helped students from both departments be prepared as they search for jobs after graduation.
“The plan is for it to always grow in intensity,” Urias remarked. “Most people never get to experience that. This gives them an up-close view of it.”