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Nursing students train in counter-bioterrorism

October 12th, 2011 10:01 pm by Rex Barber

Some things you just can’t learn in a classroom.
To help some East Tennessee State University nursing students with some of that field knowledge, the school organized a bioterrorism emergency preparedness workshop Wednesday.
Bringing together emergency responders from various local agencies, nursing students who will graduate in December found out what firefighters, paramedics and other health professionals do prior to a patient arriving at a hospital.
Caitlyn Rookstool, a senior majoring in nursing, helped organize the event, held Wednesday at the ETSU/Mountain States Health Alliance Athletic Center.
“These are things we don’t normally learn in class that people in the hospitals want us to know when we start working,” Rookstool said.
Eight educational stations were set up Wednesday, including one for decontamination procedures, one for triage, one showcasing emergency vehicles, one demonstrating a hazmat suit, one explaining how an incident command post works and one for Johnson City Fire Department personnel to explain some of their duties.
“I work in the emergency room, so I had a little bit of practice, but I learned a lot there and not as much here, so we’re trying to change that,” Rookstool said of the difference between classroom knowledge and real world application of nursing.
Spencer Maden, also a nursing major who will graduate in December, said he chose nursing because other members of his family are nurses, so he knows the profession offers job security, and he has a passion to help people.
“What we’re learning here is bioterrorism and emergency situations outside of the hospital,” Maden said.
Usually, in a hospital situation, nurses deal with a relatively controlled environment and can deal with most problems. But during a disaster, the knowledge to successfully deal with problems may not be there.
“I think there’s always a need to be ready for action, and I think everyone needs to be ready for any circumstance,” Maden said. “Am I ready? Hopefully I am from my education I’m getting here.”
Sue Fulmer, with ETSU’s Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium, helped develop some of Wednesday’s activities. The consortium includes six colleges and universities developing courses through an Office of Homeland Security grant. The courses will be used across the nation.
“I think it’s very important that (students) become familiar with the agencies that are involved in any kind of disaster response, so they can see not only what their role is but the roles of all the other people and how they fit into the whole picture,” Fulmer said.
Disasters often see law enforcement agencies, emergency management agencies, fire departments, hazardous materials crews and relief and logistics workers. Knowing how they all work together can make operations more efficient, said Angie Minor, volunteer coordinator with the Tennessee Department of Health with the Medical Reserve Corps.
Minor was helping provide information on her agency Wednesday.
“It is extremely important that we prepare ahead of time for those disasters that are going to change our lives,” she said.
Lisa Davenport, an assistant professor of nursing at ETSU, said events like the one Wednesday are important because many agencies are involved in responding to disasters.
“When we manage disasters we have to work together, so it’s better to learn how to do that beforehand, so that we can make the response more effective,” Davenport said.
Davenport hoped to continue holding disaster preparedness events for students in medicine, pharmacy, public health, social work, psychology, as well as nursing.

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