UVa Med School Students Handle Disaster Scenarios

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

June 24, 2005

What would you do if a terrorist attacked or a category five hurricane hit the East Coast? Today, over 100 UVa Medical School students answered that question as they finished Uva's Clinical Connection Disaster Training Course.

Although the situation may have looked real, it was not. Over 100 third year UVa Medical School Students were actually completing a disaster scenario class. The Clinical Connections course gives students the knowledge and skills to help emergency response teams in the event of a mass-casualty disaster.

"The best way to handle situations like that is to be prepared and hope things will go smooth because when something happens it's going to be chaos," said Joseph Baltz, a UVa Med. School Student.

Even though disasters seem to be chaotic, there is a structured way to respond to them. It's called 'The National Incident Response System.'

"We're trying to teach that so [the students] don't just show up at the scene and say, 'I'm here to help,' but they understand the system that they can work in and so they're effective," said Dr. Mark Kirk, a UVa Toxicologist.

Students learned how to wear protective equipment, handle mass immunizations and infectious diseases, and how to transport patients.

However, in a traumatic situation all the equipment in the world can only get you so far. That's why this training course touches on mental health, as well. They said building trust calms fears.

"More people are going to be affected mentally by a disaster than physically," said Baltz.

"Clearly, it's not all just fixing broken bones and cuts, a lot of it deals with the fear, the anxiety, how to communicate with people, how to reassure them [that] things are going to be okay," said Dr. Kirk.

Students say they're now well prepared to help fellow citizens during their time of need. And professors give them an A+.

This is the first year UVa offered this course. Officials said the class was added to the curriculum because after the events of September 11th, medical schools realized they had to prepare the doctors of tomorrow, in case of a worst-case scenario.

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