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Mock crisis authentically adds to interdisciplinary preparedness

Students from Penn College’s School of Nursing & Health Sciences and School of Sciences, Humanities & Visual Communications joined area law enforcement, emergency management and health care professionals in a recent simulation at UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport Regional Medical Center and a variety of other locations.

The college’s paramedic program has participated in the drill since its inception, and this year, the School of Nursing & Health Sciences decided to participate schoolwide to provide an interdisciplinary learning opportunity. The school had conducted its own Interdisciplinary Professional Experience on campus for several years.

Among the simulated emergencies was a mass shooting in a building near the hospital.

Reporting for the action on March 31 were 180 students studying to become dental hygienists, nurses, occupational therapy assistants, paramedics, physician assistants, physical therapist assistants, radiographers and surgical technologists.

Many students joined hospital personnel in a temporary emergency care center set up in the hospital’s lobby, while paramedic students provided care at the site of the mock disaster, and still other students filled the roles of patients and panicked family members reporting to the scene and to the hospital.

“As future health care providers, it is important for our students to gain an appreciation for the roles and responsibilities of the other providers they will interact with on a regular basis,” said Christopher T. Boyer, director of paramedic technology programs at the college. “Drills such as this allow each student to witness varying health care providers in action, while also obtaining a better understanding of the complexities of the health care system.”

In addition to students in health sciences majors, several students in the emergency management technology major volunteered, working alongside hospital and county emergency management professionals.

“The job I eventually will take will be in an office,” said Valerie A. Magner, an emergency management technology student from Cogan Station. “I won’t be a first responder; I’ll be supporting first responders. Being here helps me understand better what’s going on out in the field during an incident and understand what they will need in the field to help complete the task.”

– Photos by Jennifer A. Cline, writer/magazine editor

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