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Reverse Roles: Nursing Airsafe Simulation

Creating transformational learning experiences

UofSC College of Nursing students took on the role of patients during Airsafe 2019, giving them an even deeper understanding of those they will serve in their future careers.

“Participating in a simulation like AirSafe 2019 allows our senior nursing students to directly observe multiple agencies working together to respond to a mass casualty incident. Many of our students commented they are now more sensitive to the chaos and uncertainty victims experience before reaching an acute care facility or being reunited with family members,” clinical associate professor Sabra Custer said.

Airsafe is an airport emergency simulation required by the Federal Aviation Administration every three years. The simulation, which included firefighters extinguishing a burning airplane, took place at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.

UofSC College of Nursing students participated as plane crash victims and family members.

“Our students have great experiences with different types of simulations through our program, but Airsafe is particularly exciting because they get to be the patient and experience how a patient’s life is impacted in this situation. They are usually the ones providing care, so this gives them a different lens,” clinical assistant professor Karen Worthy said.

Outfitted with moulage -- mock injuries created using makeup -- students gave the impression of having burns, lacerations and even missing limbs. They excitedly questioned one another about their assigned injuries, which hospital they would go to and if they ultimately succumbed to their wounds.

Before the simulation, participants and emergency responders were briefed by airport personnel. Emergency responders included paramedics, chaplains, Richland County, Lexington and Columbia Fire Departments and other Emergency Medical Technicians.

Students acting as victims were transported to the designated accident site. There, they waited to be assessed by first responders. Students acting as family members were taken to a tent to wait to be reunited with their families.

Reflecting on the simulation, students emphasized the benefit of having a patient experience.

“A victim that has just been through a devastating ordeal has so much on their minds. They might be concerned for their family or in a state of emotional shock. They might deal with their fear by being snippy or angry. These are all things that I, as a nurse, need to be aware of and understand is not personal,” nursing student Victoria Allen said.

Custer also emphasized the importance of a patient-focused point of view.

“If patients seem difficult or unruly, it might be because they have been in a situation where they were outside in the heat for an hour. Be patient and slow to get frustrated,” Custer said during the student debriefing.

Students and faculty said Airsafe and other simulations provide the unique opportunity to prepare for situations they will face in their careers.

“If an actual mass casualty incident had occurred, it would be reassuring to know that all parties involved had some training and practice for a similar incident. Getting to do a dry run in a controlled environment keeps patients safer and allows for a less anxiety-inducing learning experience,” student Noah Taylor said.

Clinical Simulation Laboratory Director Crystal Murillo pointed out that simulations play an important role for UofSC College of Nursing students, especially in gaining insight into patient care.

“Simulation creates transformational learning experiences for all nursing students and provides diverse perspectives on caring for patients across the continuum of care,” Murillo said.

Written by: Tenell Felder, Public Relations Coordinator (schools of health)

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