nursing schoolOn a calm recent morning, nursing students were going about a normal class day. Without warning, screams and cries for help from the second floor of the Pinkard Building sent them scrambling.

They found a room filled with casualties of the sort that require quick action, quicker thinking, and an enormous amount of cool, especially when the media show up.

Count on the creative people at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing simulation lab to once again blow the roof off the notion that genuine expertise can be gained only through real-world experience.

The simulated crisis, dreamed up by Sandy Swoboda, MS, RN, and Maggie Neal, PhD, RN, was that a tornado had struck a high-rise assisted living facility, pouring debris from the damaged roof onto the residents. Diane Aschenbrenner, MS, RN, and the simulation team created the realistic environment, including applying makeup to make it appear as though "victims" had been impaled, cut, or bruised by falling objects. As a team, students worked to quickly assess and treat injuries and clear a path through actual rubble for those who could be transported to a safer triage site. 

With “relatives” of the injured begging for any information available on those trapped inside and a news team sniffing out a breaking story, the event was also a unique challenge for nurses schooled in protecting patients’ privacy in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.

Volunteers within the school served as casualties, worried kin, and, yes, meddlesome media types. Aschenbrenner got into the act herself as a stunned elderly victim pulled from the rubble while “husband” Daniel Sheridan, PhD, RN, FAAN played dead.

Though the simulation made for great theater and good fun, Swoboda and Neal were also pleased with the students’ impromptu performance. They stressed the serious work of preparing nurses ready to lead on a second’s notice, and how invaluable the sims experience can be. The same day, in fact, students faced another “crisis” on a separate floor of the building--organizing a mass immunization clinic for busloads of patients needing vaccinations against an outbreak of deadly "flu" strain. Students are learning to react swiftly, efficiently, and effectively, says Swoboda.

They also very likely are learning not to get too comfortable in their daily routines.

Learn more about the simulation labs at JHUSON.