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April 29, 2009

Nursing students practice for disaster

ANDERSON — Low clouds and poor visibility might have kept Saint John Health System’s Dove Flight medical helicopter grounded on Wednesday, but they didn’t stop Anderson University nursing students from coming to it.

Junior-level nursing students visited the Saint John’s helipad to learn about the helicopter and the job performed by flight nurses and paramedics. The event was part of a day-long activity focusing on disaster preparedness, nursing professor Sarah Neal said.

“It’s really to help them see (the helicopter) as a tool for response to disaster and to understand the process of how they’re used in flight nursing,” Neal said.

Junior nursing students at AU study concepts in critical care, surgery and emergency procedures. Earlier in the day, students participated in a disaster activity where their lab was torn apart and the lights turned off, simulating a disaster zone.

Some students acted as patients, while others pretended to be first- and second-responders to the scene, tagging and triaging patients.

“It’s pretty chaotic,” Neal said. “It’s a lot of screaming and chaos. It’s a good representation of what they might find if they’re out in the field.

Later, flight nurse Rob Steele, who works with Saint John’s Dove Flight, briefed students on life as a flight nurse. He quoted former Army general Nicholas Senn: “The fate of the wounded rests in the hands of the one who applies the first dressing.”

Steele told students about the certifications required to be a flight nurse and a first responder and encouraged them to seek opportunities in those fields of nursing.

“It’s a whole different world than being in a hospital being in the back of an ambulance,” he said. “Every day it’s hair, teeth, blood, guts and eyeballs for me.”

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