Theater students help nurses train for emergency situations

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Derek Duncan

A nurse comforts freshman Kaitlyn Barnes playing a role of having severe head injury. The training was for the school nurses of Parkway. “It felt real because a lot of the people there are used to acting and were really into it,” sophomore Grace Eschbach said. “It would take a second to be like ‘okay, this is not real. This is just a practice.’ And the people who were training were so on top of it, it felt even more real.”

By Fatema Rehmani, Parkway West High School

With pencils impaled in abdomens, bleeding arms and a number of other fake injuries applied with makeup, a group of 13 theater students helped all of Parkway’s nurses train for a mass casualty situation. The practice scenario was for damage inflicted by a tornado. 

“The injuries were whatever could possibly happen in an environment like that. We had some burns because in a building being torn apart, chemicals fly. There were flying object injuries, head injuries. It was the idea of having a lot of people being injured, and how you would organize that medical care in that scenario,” Nurse Lois Burch said. 

The students and nurses ran through the drill twice. Both times students were placed into categories of green, yellow or red after the nurses assessed the severity of their injuries. 

“It’s one of those things where, to be able to do that hands on, you need to see what that process looks like. You have to somehow organize chaos because it would be [chaotic],” Burch said. “It was very helpful to see how it could work. They did amazing jobs with the makeup. I know if someone is impaled, you don’t pull that out, but to actually see the dressing around it was good. I learned a lot.” 

Theater students spent three hours having professionals put on makeup representing different degrees of injuries.

“Me and other kids just had small blood and scars, while other kids had major injuries, such as a broken back, ribcage or jaw,” senior Olivia Bradshaw said. “Fifteen minutes before the drill, we were all just standing in the English halls, and whenever they said ‘go,’ we’d have to start screaming.”

The nurses would then come over and ask the students if they were okay, how much they were hurting, if they could walk or answer questions about their name or the year. 

“In the first round, I was put into the urgent group, the red group, for mental trauma. They gave me special instructions to react slowly. When people asked me a question, I had to wait a few seconds and then answer,” sophomore Grace Eschbach said. “They were able to relay information to each other quickly to be able to get the job done. I think it went well, and the people who were training did their jobs and seemed like they knew what they were doing and were capable.”

If a student could answer all of the questions clearly and was not screaming as much as other students, they were put in the green group. 

“Some of us were going through and assessing everybody and marking their severity. Others of us were helping move these people to whatever triage level they assessed at. Then, we would move them, or if they couldn’t walk, we carried them to that triage level. We’ve had classroom time on it before, but we’ve never had that in action, where we’re actually acting it out. I’m glad that we did it because it’s a situation I think about,” Burch said.

This story was originally published on Pathfinder on January 7, 2020.