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Misericordia nursing students prepare for potential disaster

 Students near completion of the Misericordia Nursing Program entered a disaster simulation.
Haley O'Brien
Students near completion of the Misericordia Nursing Program entered a disaster simulation.

Nursing students at Misericordia University will be trading the classroom for the clinic soon. To better prepare them for emergency situations, the senior class immersed themselves in a mock disaster situation.

“There was an earthquake that happened this morning,” said Annette Weiss, the Assistant Dean of Nursing at Misericordia. “It’s all disheveled, and the students had to run in in 30 seconds, assess each patient quickly, triage them and decide who gets sent out to the hospital first, or in the case where they’re deceased, hopefully they quickly move past them and get to the people that they can help.”

The soon-to-be nurses looked at each patient’s symptoms and used their best judgment to decide who should be prioritized.

“He is Neil Carter, a 60 year old male,” Jenna Biago said. “He is unable to move to verbal response and his respirations are less than 30. He’s a little disheveled in the bed and he has an injury on his foot. I would say he’s an immediate, red tag. So he needs to be rushed to the hospital soon.”

“See if she’s awake, oriented, check her cap refill, and see how fast she’s breathing,” Katelyn Sbresny said.

Sbresny says this patient, a pregnant woman with a lower leg fracture, is a yellow tag, meaning she needs help, but she can wait a little.

“One of them was a pregnant mom with a broken bone,” Camryn Hubric said. “So that one was a little tricky to decide, you know? Do you worry about the baby? Do you worry just about the mom? But you kind of take both into perspective.”

Hubric, who grew up in Berks County, works at Reading Hospital. Next year, she’ll be in the medical ICU - where she will provide critical care to patients in the event of another disaster.

“We hear about them happening here and there. I know there was a recent one near my home at R.M. Palmer. There was a factory that exploded. And many workers died,” she said. “And those victims went to the hospital I work at, at home, the Reading hospital.”

“This is really the end of their program, and the biggest part of nursing is critical care and critical thinking, and being able to think through situations rapidly, so this helps them to learn how to think quickly on their toes,” Weiss said.

It’s life or death, and Doug Hosking says that’s the hard part.

“If they aren’t gonna make it you gotta like, not prioritize them because you would be wasting resources on somebody that could use them,” Hosking said.

The students compared notes and found that the ideal scenario is intangible.

“We're kind of finding that there was a few that were very obvious of who you send out first, you send out last, things like that. But then there's a few in the middle of kind of a gray area,” Hubric said.

“It’s about saving the most people in the most efficient way, in the shortest amount of time,” Weiss said.

Most of these students will be working in a clinical setting by the Fall.