A trauma training day: Up close and personal

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It was an afternoon when the textbooks were packed away and 18 Brock University third and fourth year nursing students had an experience that is unique in Ontario – an opportunity to put their learning to work during a simulated trauma under the watchful eye of Niagara Health System (NHS) RN’s who face life-threatening situations every day.

The Trauma Training Day is the brainchild of Emergency Department Clinical Manager Elaine Burr, who organized the full day for students at the NHS’s St. Catharines General Site. Elaine put together a team of RNs who then developed and delivered a morning’s worth of training on the vast range of assessment and treatment skills required when dealing with critical patients in an ER.

For the afternoon, three trauma simulations were set up, complete with RNs acting as patients and as facilitators/assessors. The students, divided into teams, had about half an hour to assess and begin treatment on the mock patient before moving on to the next scenario. The training day took place in the hospital’s Leonard classroom, coincidentally a location for the training of nurses that dates back to the 1920’s and the Mack School of Nursing.

The mock emergencies were as realistic as possible, complete with capsules which had one ‘patient’ vomiting blood 20 minutes into the assessment, and another sacrificing her jeans (three pairs) so the students could experience cutting clothing off a patient. The scenarios were a patient with stab wounds, a construction worker who fell four storeys off a ladder, and an elderly pedestrian hit by a truck. Numerous props were provided so students could experience handling IV bags, catheters and other tools of the trade, along with patients in a trauma situation.

What makes the program unique is that students typically don’t learn how to assess and treat trauma patients with live people. A student who has a clinical placement in an emergency department would only be able to observe in an emergency trauma situation. This training day is a first, not only for the NHS and Brock students, but for all of Ontario.

“The Trauma Training Day is an absolute win-win opportunity,” Elaine says. “We want to recruit Brock students to our hospitals and to our emergency departments, and Brock wants to ensure their students are getting every opportunity to learn their profession.”

“We have a state-of-the-art simulation lab at Brock for nursing students, but it is with computerized mannequins and the human aspect is difficult to replicate,” says Sandra Miscinszki, Brock University’s Nursing Practicum Co-ordinator. “A day like this, dedicated to trauma medicine, is a wonderful link and a really unique opportunity.”

Sandra explained that students in the four-year nursing program have numerous clinical placement or consolidation opportunities during their years of study. By fourth year, about 40 students are in community placements such as Public Health, homeless agencies and various outpatient clinics during the first term and then there is a January-to-April clinical placement in hospital. One half of the placement has to be Med/Surg and the other half is the choice of the student. Students write their final exam in June.

The feedback from the students was overwhelmingly positive, with most saying that it was a great learning experience that gave them an opportunity to learn from real-life situations from an amazing and knowledgeable staff.

Elaine and her team are already planning the next Trauma Training Day in a few months. “Our staff are thrilled to offer the opportunity,” she says. “They did a fabulous job during the training day, both with the morning presentation and with the afternoon scenarios. It was very gratifying for all of us to read the great comments from students and I’m particularly pleased to see the staff recognized for their clinical skills and knowledge. They are ready to go again, complete with fake blood!”