Prepared for when disaster strikes
Disaster Day is an annual event held by the Texas A&M Health Science Center, and it is meant to simulate a situation to prepare health care professionals for a real disaster. Each year is a different disaster, from a plane crash to a train derailment. There are participants from the College of Medicine, College of Nursing, and College of Pharmacy, as well as radiology students, EMS students, and physical therapy students. While this event is open to students from the entire college of pharmacy, student pharmacists, who are members of APhA–ASP are highly encouraged to participate. This event draws in hundreds of volunteers from the community and local high schools to act as “patients” during this disaster. The event is covered on the local news, the Red Cross is involved, and the local hospital helicopter is parked outside to make the simulation more realistic. This event is truly one of a kind and has greatly opened my eyes to how interprofessional activities are an essential part of a well-rounded health care professional’s education.
Before the event starts, all of the health care professionals are broken down into small interprofessional teams. Each team has students from each field of care, and everyone introduces themselves and gives a brief description about what they do in their line of work. Together, this team gets to know and trust each other and learn how to work together to best serve the needs of the “patients.” The gym is divided into two sections, each with their own set of students and a pharmacy, and the same situations happen in each section. Student pharmacists are able to visit with “patients” and give moral support while they are waiting to be triaged, as well as view and participate in some of the simulations that are going on. Simulations include female actors giving birth, “patients” who start seizing, and multiple codes. Final-year student pharmacists walk with the medical students and nursing students to provide their recommendations on proper medications and dosing. The two pharmacies are set up identically, and are very makeshift, as it would be in the case of a real disaster. There is a limited supply of medications that are on hand for the medical and nursing students to use, and as student pharmacists, we are responsible for knowing each medication and accurately dispensing the medications while also checking the prescriptions for correctness. Student pharmacists working in the pharmacy are given a formulary of medications that are on hand, and are given the responsibility to recommend an alternative therapy that is available to the nursing student or medical student at a moment’s notice. Each profession has a main job that they are responsible for performing, but they are joined by other professional students from different disciplines so that everyone gets to experience what it is like to be in the shoes of another health care professional. For instance, student pharmacists have to deal with “patients” who are acting as drug seekers. These “patients” come into the gym pretending to be injured in order to try and trick the medical and nursing students into giving them prescriptions for pain medication. They also come up to the pharmacy asking for medication or for help, and then “steal” the medication that we have on hand. In the case of a real emergency, this would be a situation that we would have to deal with, and while we are worried about taking care of the ill, we have to remember that there are people who will try to take advantage of the situation to abuse medications.
The simulation lasts a few hours, and after it is over, there is a large debriefing session in which each profession gets a chance to talk about what went well and how they can improve. Disaster Day provides the best kind of interprofessional experiences because it provides insight into how health care professionals work better as a team. This is a highly anticipated event by all students pharmacists because it gives an invaluable experience to everyone who attends.