Preparing for Disaster: MSU nursing students to be ready for anything

Minnesota State’s nursing program conducted a disaster simulation drill designed to prepare students for anything, including the aftermath of a bomb explosion. 

Simulations such as this — which take place each semester — force students to think critically and make decisions quickly. Last semester students underwent a shooter simulation. This semester, however, the wounds varied from severe burns to broken bones from fallen debris. 

Tapping into their creative side, the first-semester nursing students were able to make up their patient names and conditions.

Jada Richardson, a first-semester nursing student, suffered from lacerations and abrasions on her arm from ceiling debris falling on top of her. 

“I think the third-semester nursing students did well. They knew what they were assessing for based on vital signs and our appearance,” Richardson said. 

To make matters more complex, the patient she created also had diabetes so the nurses had to keep in mind her glucose levels so she wouldn’t lose consciousness. 

“It will be fun to see where we are now and how much knowledge we will gain to confidently be able to do this when I’m a third-semester student,”  Richardson said. Her patient also had a child who was missing after the explosion. 

This drill also includes first-year paramedic students from South Central College in North Mankato.

“It’s important to keep your focus. Everyone can be screaming around you. It’s quite a chaotic scene, but you have to focus on what you’re doing and not lose your train of thought,” Farah Warner, a first-year paramedic student at South Central College said. “You have to keep an eye on where your partners are and what they’re doing because you never know when they need help.”

Instructors stepped in occasionally to reassign injuries if there were too many of a specific variety.

“Once we got like a flow of what we were triaging, we all got in a role so it was good as soon as everyone recognized what they needed to do,” Clare Stuewe, a first-year paramedic student at South Central College said.

One challenge they faced on the scene was not being able to help multiple patients at once, even though many were “in pain.”

“Being able to communicate what your assessment findings were and what treatment you gave to the people transporting was important also so they knew what to tell the hospital,” Stuewe said. 

When it came to actually treating the patients and deciphering the best course of action, some third-semester students said they felt overwhelmed. 

“The most difficult part is honestly not knowing what you’re coming into,” Kelsey Carels, a third-semester nursing student said. “We definitely weren’t confident in ourselves coming into it. But the more patients came, the more confident that I felt our team was able to care for them.”

The progress first-semester students make by the time they reach their third semester in the program is significant. 

“It is night and day. I remember just the chaos and thinking how I would never get to the point that I would be able to triage and calmly take care of patients,” Carels said. “Nothing works without communication. I feel like we avoided a lot of chaos just because we did a lot of communicating.”

Anna Mauss, a third-semester nursing student at MSU, can attest to how important communication and knowing what to look for in this field are.  

“Back then (first semester of nursing school) you didn’t realize the importance of vital signs. Now that’s what you’re looking for, like blood pressure and heart rates,” Mauss said. “It was hard to triage patients on the spot. The paramedics would just blurt out a bunch of stuff and it was difficult to decide if they should go to an in-patient or emergency room and figure out what beds were available.”

The disaster simulation is just one exercise that raises awareness and prepares the nursing students at MSU for whatever life throws at them.

Header photo: The nursing program conducts disaster simulations every semester. This semester was the result of a bombing and explosion. (Julia Lin/The Reporter)

Write to Julia Lin at

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