YSU nursing students prep for medical emergency

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Nursing students at Youngstown State University were getting experience Wednesday in case they are ever needed at a chemical accident or attack.

The School of Nursing and the Student Health Center took part in a drill to learn how to diagnose and treat victims of a chemical attack or a mass outbreak of an illness.

Also helping out were representatives of the Mahoning County Board of Health, the Youngstown City Health District and MercyHealth.

Students were victims of a simulated anthrax outbreak. They were sent to triage, where they were asked what symptoms they had, then ushered into another room where they would receive the appropriate medication.

This is the fourth year the drill has taken place at YSU.

Wendy Thomas, an associate professor of nursing, said the exercise gives students practice for dispensing medication to a large amount of people in a short time span.

“There’s always a threat of bioterrorism,” Thomas said. “People don’t think it will happen, but we need to be prepared.”

Thomas said they are always learning something new in the drills and adjust for the next one. One of the things they weren’t prepared for initially is treating patients who don’t speak English, so they set up dry eraser boards and other methods so they could communicate. She said that is especially important at YSU because there is a large international student population that may have family visiting if some sort of medical crisis should hit the campus.

They also have to make plans for making sure staff members who would be working during a disaster are fed. Thomas said.

The exercise began with those participating either receiving a text or an email alerting them to a medical emergency and where they could get help. Becky Rose, who works in the communications office at YSU, said the campus alert system would be very important during a medical emergency.

Molly Roch, also an assistant professor of nursing, said the drill is also a way to get the students prepared to handle a large scale event in the future if they ever need to.

She also said she hopes some of those students will feel the call to their alma mater and return to YSU should they ever be needed to help out.

Thomas said the instructors learn almost as much as the students when the students give their feedback.

“We learn a lot from our students,” she said.

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