Bristol Bay students practice life-saving skills in a mass casualty incident drill
About ten volunteers are putting the finishing touches on their wound makeup. One person has a bullet hole in their arm. Another is ‘missing’ a finger. Behind them, a group of high school students in bright blue scrubs are getting ready for a mass casualty incident drill – that’s an exercise that prepares medical personnel for a large-scale emergency.
Angel Yagie, a junior from Nondalton, is one of the scrubbed-up students. She said the class has spent the week developing their skills and learning how to save lives. Now, it’s time to put those skills to use.
“We're going to be going around seeing and figuring out what's wrong with the patients and we're going to assess them as best we can. We're going to try to save as many people as possible,” she said.
The week-long intensive class comes from a partnership between the Bristol Bay Regional Career Technical Education Program and the Southwest Alaska Area Health Center at the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association. Ashlyn Luckhurst is a career development specialist for the technical education program.
“We had eight students from across Bristol Bay fly into Dillingham. They've been here since last Sunday and they've been going to class every day. They got their basic first aid and CPR certifications. And this drill is to help them practice those skills that they learned. They're going to be triaging and treating all of us,” she said.
As southwest Alaska's Area Health Education Center director Olivia Bridges calls the room to order, the volunteers prepare to hide around the University of Alaska Fairbanks Bristol Bay Campus building. The simulated incident is a vicious gorilla attack.
Bridges said that mass casualty incidents and natural disaster emergencies are traumatic, but the practice allows the students to keep their skills up to date.
“Doing these kinds of drills, in kind of a fun way, I think is really helpful, and can be really empowering for the students, because it's not real at the end of the day,” she said. “This one was all about a gorilla attack that we created. And I had help from a student to create that fun story to contextualize that natural disaster.”
Beyond responding to a simulated gorilla attack, Bridges said students got the chance to learn about careers in healthcare and received certifications in CPR and first aid. Bridges said that along with CPR, the students learned how to control bleeding, make splints for broken bones, address anaphylactic shock and tackle environmental emergencies.
“I have to say that all eight students this week were just so excellent. And I really see them as being the future leaders in healthcare in their communities and in the region,” Bridges said.
Noel Bowe is another career development specialist with the Bristol Bay Regional Career and Technical Education Program.
“I have a bullet wound in my arm, a gash, a stick in the forehead and some other miscellaneous wounds,” she said, just before the drill started.
She ran a course this week to help train students interested in becoming teachers. Bowe said that these programs give students from around Bristol Bay an opportunity to connect and learn about different career paths.
“A lot of our communities are pretty small and isolated. So coming here they can make connections and build those relationships,” she said.
The Bristol Bay Regional Career and Technical Education Program’s goal is to introduce high school students to career opportunities in the region, and provide the chance for them to earn technical certifications and college credit.
About an hour later, the students had successfully located, rescued and treated all of the volunteers, including helping carry some back to home base in the campus’s lab and talking down traumatized victims. As the event ended and students started to clean up the sprawl of makeup and gauze, the energy remained high. All the students kept their scrubs on.
Nondalton Junior Angel Yagie said she’s excited for a future healthcare career.
“I have so many possibilities and options in the health field and I look forward to studying them all,” she said.
The Bristol Bay Regional Career Technical Education Program is putting on two additional intensive career training courses in the Spring of next year.
For more information on the Bristol Bay Regional Career Technical Education Program visit: https://bbrcte.org/.
For more information on Alaska’s Area Health Education Center and its regional office hosted at the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, Inc. visit: https://www.apiai.org/alaskas-southwest-ahec-program/
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