Shake, rattle and rolling on the New Madrid fault - VHA SimLEARN
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Shake, rattle and rolling on the New Madrid fault

By Kyle Rhone, RN, and Kami Willett, RN
Simulation Educators
Mobile Simulation Training Team and Nebraska West Iowa VA Health Care System

OMAHA, Neb. – On Aug. 23 a 9.5 magnitude earthquake occurred with the epicenter five miles north of Memphis, Tennessee. However, “THIS WAS ONLY AN EXERCISE.” On that day, SimLEARN’s Mobile Simulation Training Team (MSTT) and the Nebraska West Iowa VA Health Care System (NWIHCS) held a joint exercise with eight area medical centers, Airmen from Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska and the American Red Cross to test their skills during a natural disaster. In addition, metro emergency responders, Air Force emergency management personnel, Eppley Air Field, an Air Force medical detachment and over 80 volunteers participated in the exercise. 

The national response plan for this type of incident includes evacuating patients from Memphis to St. Louis, then on to other facilities, including in Omaha, which can accept 80 patients within a 24-hour period. Members of the VA simulation team took a mannequin to a local hospital, were they ran a mock code with the emergency department (ED) staff. The exercise started in a hanger at the local airport, and mannequins were triaged and transported to the hospitals with the rest of the volunteer patients.  

Jim Jenkins, NWIHCS emergency management specialist, and Jim Murry, area emergency manager for the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), coordinated these groups who all came and worked together to exercise and test patient flow and tracking, triage, transport and treatment of 80 “sick and injured” patients. These simulated patients were integrated into a regional medical care system, treated and dispositioned smoothly.

The VA Professional Education Resource (VAPER), with help from the MSTT, deployed six moulaged, high-fidelity mannequins into the exercise. These mannequins allow practitioners to perform life-saving procedures from emergent airway management to chest tube placement. These mannequins were deployed to area hospitals and used to exercise those hospitals’ response to very critical patients requiring large, multidisciplinary resources. Feedback from participating hospitals was positive including one nurse who applied for a simulation Job opening based upon the positive experience, interactions and proactive approach displayed by the VHA simulation team.