Simulation exercise brings medical, physician assistant students together to provide emergency care

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Medical and physician assistant students walking into the Brody Commons on Saturday were met with the sounds of sirens and cries for help, along with flashing blue and red lights and injured people everywhere.

The students quickly began addressing each patient, speaking to the injured and assessing their injuries to determine who needed help most urgently as part of an annual mass casualty simulation known as I-TEAM Day.

Interprofessional Trauma Emergency Assessment & Management (I-TEAM) Day allows students from the Brody School of Medicine to partner with students from other health care professions to gain experience in emergency scenarios.

Students learn about airway management during the I-TEAM disaster simulation event on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. {Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Saturday’s event in the Brody Commons and the Interprofessional Clinical Simulation Center at the Brody School of Medicine simulated the aftermath of a boiler room explosion in an emergency shelter during a Category 3 hurricane.

Students from the College of Allied Health Sciences’ Department of Physician Assistant Studies joined medical students from Brody’s Emergency Medicine Interest Group to triage more than 20 simulated patients in moulage makeup that mimicked injuries, courtesy of makeup artists from ECU’s theater program. Patient injuries ranged from minor cuts and scrapes to burns, broken bones and lost limbs.

Students examined patients and asked about their symptoms, assigning them a colored slip of paper — green, yellow, red or black depending on the severity of their injuries. Red indicated those needing the most immediate care who would be the first evacuated from the scene, followed by yellow. Green indicated those whose injuries were not as severe, and black indicated those not expected to survive.

“The point is to triage all of them, tag them with a color, and then to go back and constantly re-evaluate them, because they could get better or worse depending on how long it takes them to get care,” said Alex Dougherty, a second-year medical student and president of the Emergency Medicine Interest Group that organized the event.

Students also rotated through skills lab sessions in the school’s Interprofessional Clinical Simulation Center to learn and practice the skills needed to treat the various injuries that can result from these types of catastrophes. Skills lab sessions included hemorrhage management, decontamination for a patient who experienced pesticide poisoning and intravenous (IV) access, among others.

“It’s a really unique thing to participate in,” said Cole Deavers, a second-year physician assistant studies student. “It’s not too often that I get a chance to try and work through what it would be like if all these people were injured at once — how do you handle it emotionally, but also mentally— and strategize to take care of the people who need it the most, first? You don’t want your first time experiencing that to be the real thing.”

It was a rare hands-on opportunity for the students, who spend the majority of their first two years in the classroom setting before beginning to work with patients more frequently during their third year. The event also offered the opportunity to collaborate with students from another health care profession.

“That’s what we do in practice,” Dougherty said. “Once we’re in the hospital we’re working with nurses and PAs and nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists and PT (physical therapy) and OT (occupational therapy). Any health care profession is going to be interacting with each other in the hospital. By integrating our studies early, you get to start working with these other programs.”

I-TEAM day is typically an annual event for the Brody School of Medicine; however, it was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, Brody has hosted its own I-TEAM day with just medical students, and has also collaborated with the College of Nursing for the event.

Medical student Jennifer McMains, left, helps two standardized patients during the disaster simulation event on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021.

Medical student Jennifer McMains, left, helps two standardized patients during the disaster simulation event.