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Paramedic Class to Stage Triage Drill at WVSU

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Warner Brothers won't be shooting a disaster film on the West Virginia State University campus May 7, but visitors to the Institute campus that day shouldn't be alarmed by what they see.

There will be "blood" and perhaps a lot of over-the-top screaming that day, but it won't be real.

What will be real, though, is a Mass Casualty Incident training event staged by the paramedic technology class at the West Virginia State Community and Technical College.

"I'm hoping to have my victims together by 9 a.m.," said Paula Johnson, program director of the paramedic program.

The "victims" will be volunteers from the nursing department.

"They could be bystanders at the scene, or they may be patients themselves," Johnson said.

Johnson declined to say what type of event would trigger the mock catastrophe, other than to say, "it is consistent with the types of disasters that could occur on campus."

The purpose of the mock disaster is to prepare student paramedics for the types of stressful, life or death experiences they could encounter in real life.

The MCI training will prepare the students "to properly sort, treat and manage a variety of patients with a variety of complaints. Some will be life threatening injuries," she said.

Johnson said her students are aware of the drill, but they've not been advised as to what they will be facing.

WVSU students, staff and faculty have also been informed about the Wednesday, May 7 drill.

Organizers of the drill will try to make it as true to life as possible, with the goal of trying to "rattle" the students to get them used to performing under pressure.

As paramedics, "they'll be rattled in real life, so they should learn now and learn how to cope."

One of the main purposes of the drill is to train the students how to size up a disaster scene and make rapid decisions about which victims have life threatening injuries that require immediate care as opposed to those whose injuries could wait.

Johnson has prepared the volunteer victims so that they would be familiar with what a mass casualty incident would be like.

"They'll be yuckied up with fake blood."

The student paramedics will also have to perform "call-ins" from the scene of the disaster. Dr. John Turley, medical director of the paramedic program, will take the calls and assess how well the students are doing.

"When they arrive on the scene, when it's time to transport the patients after they've been stabilized, they have to call the hospital and give a report. Dr. Turley will be on hand to take the reports," Johnson said.

The paramedic students participating in the drill are those who are nearing completion of the program.

"They'll go for their national registry testing in August," she said.

An added benefit to the drill is that it will familiarize the student nurses with what "pre-hospital providers" have to do to stabilize patients before they arrive at hospitals.

The drill will also familiarize WVSU and community college students and staff with the different aspects of emergency response and perhaps expose potential problems that could occur during a true campus incident.

Johnson said the community college is trying to expand the paramedic technology class. To take the class, students must already be registered emergency medical technicians.

Most of them are affiliated with fire departments or other emergency medical services agencies, she said.

For more information about the drill, call Johnson at 766-5l08 or send e-mail to pjohnson1@wvsctc.edu

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