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Disaster Preparedness Day at USD

By Malachi Petersen '17, '18

More than 400 students from the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University learned valuable lifesaving skills this spring as part of an annual disaster training program held in the DakotaDome on the USD campus. The event was sponsored and hosted by the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine.

The interprofessional training is a cooperative venture with the USD Sanford School of Medicine, the USD School of Health Sciences, the South Dakota Department of Health and the Yankton Rural Area Health Education Center. The training has continued as an annual event since 2004. Nearly 70 instructors – many from USD – contributed to the 2018 training.

Participating students learned the Core Disaster Life Support curriculum from the National Disaster Life Support Foundation. The training was supplemented with rotation stations where students learned about responding to anaphylaxis, emergency medicine for children, injections, personal preparedness, point of dispensing and triage.

“A lot of it is basic knowledge that you need to be reminded about,” said Bailey Burke, a junior medical lab sciences major. “Learning the check-in process, learning the whole heightened-awareness aspect, and being able to know how to control your emotions and do the steps and process during a high intensity event like a disaster is really helpful.”

Disaster Preparedness Day at USDBurke added that being able to meet with students from other medical disciplines during the training allowed her to learn what other medical jobs entail while also letting her educate other disciplines about what she does.

“Anytime we’re able to talk with people who aren’t in our major it’s a huge deal for us,” she said. “Interdisciplinary things like this are important for the medical field. For example, I might be in a lab for my work, but nurses can get to know people like me in an exercise like this. In the real world I’ll just be another person on the other end of the phone, but when we’re being educated here they actually get to know me and other people from my discipline. Especially from the standpoint of my discipline it’s nice to show people in other aspects of health care what I do.”

Jarrett Fowler, a first-year physician’s assistant student, said the training also helps students learn how to work as a team.

“The interprofessional experience helps us learn what the other professions do and how to incorporate that in order to work as a team so when a disaster hits we’re able to work together and use that interprofessional experience to become more efficient,” he said.

“This truly is an effort to provide disaster assistance and preparedness to the entire state of South Dakota.”
—Dr. Matthew Owens

Fowler reported that the broad overview of what to do during a disaster is a beneficial experience for those entering the medical field.
“I think we need to prepare for things like this, and it’s a good experience to get your feet wet and be exposed to everything so if a disaster does happen we aren’t caught off-guard,” he explained.

Dr. Matthew Owens, a family practice physician in Redfield, South Dakota, who was one of the initial organizers of the event, said USD is one of the only universities in the United States that does such a training on a wide scale with multiple disciplines.

“There are some schools that will do some disaster training every now and again,” he said. “Some of the larger emergency medical residencies do have disaster training. But our program is unique because we offer this annual training to students in their formative years of medical school and also to students during their educational experiences in different health professional programs and disciplines like occupational and physical therapy, nursing and others. We also train students not only from USD, but those who are in health programs at colleges and universities elsewhere in South Dakota. This truly is an effort to provide disaster assistance and preparedness to the entire state of South Dakota.”

Clay and Yankton County Emergency Management staff were on site at the training for “Rapid Tag registration” of students. This activity simulated the check-in process that would take place for anyone reporting to assist at a disaster in South Dakota.

The administrator of the South Dakota Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response said the training helps prepare the state to deal withDisaster Preparedness Day at USD the aftermath of a large-scale disaster.

“Our primary goal,” explained Bill Chalcraft, “is to have the ability to augment the existing health and medical workforce with skilled workers who may be called upon during disasters, specifically in situations where the workforce is severely diminished due to illness or death or is overwhelmed due to the volume of people requiring treatment. A secondary goal is to instill preparedness knowledge and skills in our health and medical students that they can take with them into professional practice.”