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Solid foundations: ShakeOut BC disaster simulation

Posted on July 9, 2018

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Traditionally, VCC's Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) program taught disaster nursing like any other course – using mannequins in labs. But while the mannequins were perfect patients in everyday class, students requested that emergency scenarios be a little more… lifelike.

Nursing instructor and certified health care simulationist Shirley Clarke began by recruiting other students to be "walking wounded" in small-scale exercises. By 2016, her initiative had expanded to include VCC facilities, communications, counselling, and security departments. Today, the ShakeOut Health Sciences Interprofessional Education Team (IPE) orchestrates an annual earthquake simulation on a scale unlike any in the province.

Held immediately following the annual Great B.C. ShakeOut earthquake drill, VCC's ShakeOut disaster simulation involves a full evacuation of the Broadway campus, after which students from eight different health sciences programs re-enter to find multiple "casualties" with realistic-looking wounds and blood. Some are pregnant, unconscious, or experiencing seizures. The electricity is cut, elevators are off, windows are "cracked," furniture is toppled, and a loop of chaotic noise plays on loudspeakers, all to simulate the aftermath of a major earthquake.

Facilitators guide groups of students through the building where they must work together to triage the victims. "Students learn about each other's roles," says School of Health Sciences practice education coordinator Jo-Ellen Zakoor. "Our goal is to enhance communication between health care professionals."

Following its launch, VCC's ShakeOut simulation ran for a second time in 2017, more than doubling participation by faculty, students, and volunteers.

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Find out if nursing is for you. Earn prerequisites while learning about the many roles in health care through VCC's Pre-Health Sciences program.