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KSU-Salem nursing students face mock disaster on campus

November 6, 2012
Morning Journal News

SALEM - Kent State University Salem nursing students put their lessons to the test Monday with a simulated multiple-injury disaster that provided them with multiple scenarios to triage and treat.

"I think it opened their eyes to the chaos that ensues and how to deal with it," Assistant Professor Karen Zapko said.

The scenario as explained by nursing Program Director Mary Lou Ferranto began with the KSU Salem dean riding a bicycle and sliding on gravel, leading to a chain reaction accident when a semi truck swerved to miss him on state Route 45 and struck a bus full of people leaving the campus. A car was also involved.

Article Photos

Kent State University Salem nursing students Kara Savage, left, and Ashly Crump assess the injured during a mock disaster drill Monday morning at the campus on state Route 45. Nursing students Brittany Cramer and Cady Dobbs, right, played two of the injured, with Dobbs’ character dead at the scene from a very apparent brain injury. Students from every level participated in the multiple-vehicle traffic crash aftermath simulation. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)

The simulation involved a variety of injured to tend to, from a pregnant woman who went into pre-term labor, to a demented elderly woman, a seriously injured child, a driver who went into cardiac arrest, a brain-dead patient and some fatalities, both at the scene and after attempts to save them in the school's emergency department.

Ferranto said the drill involved setups for triage, obstetrics, pediatrics, critical care, trauma and geriatrics, with sophomores, juniors and seniors taking part as the caregivers, the injured and family members of the injured. They even simulated the media descending on the scene.

She said the idea is to teach them how to respond to a simulated disaster using assessment skills, critical thinking and prioritizing.

"I think they did very well. We saw a lot of good critical thinking and we saw chaos," she said, describing one situation where they saw panic when an IV was accidentally pulled out of a patient during transport to surgery.

Staccie Zilavy, a senior nursing student who served as incident commander, said it was a very good real life type situation, noting that they had never had any real life experience in a disaster. They do get practical experience in hospitals and nursing facilities as part of their training, but this was the first time for a simulated disaster.

"You can only learn so much from a book," Zilavy said. "It was not what I was expecting."

Paige Stryffeler, another senior nursing student, who acted as triage commander, said "I think it's a good experience. Stressful and chaotic, but I learned a lot."

Zapko said the purpose of the exercise was to introduce the students to what would happen in a disaster. She teaches community nursing, which involves getting out in the community and in the field. After the simulation, they planned to have a debriefing to assess their performances.

Kent State University Salem and East Liverpool Dean Stephen Nameth, Ph.D., didn't suffer a scratch during the event, which actually began after the victims were lying on the ground, but visited the treatment areas during the simulation. He praised the idea of hands-on training and praised the nursing program for what it provides to students. He said the students get practical experience "that way when they get out into the real world it's not new to them."

North Star Critical Care took part with ambulance personnel and STAT MedEvac was scheduled to land at the campus as part of the drill for the pretend transport of a pretend patient besides giving the students a chance to see the helicopter and talk to its crew.

KSU Salem offers a four-year bachelor's degree nursing program and an accelerated three-year program. To learn more, visit the school's website at

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at



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