Faculty of Health

Future doctors test emergency response skills in rural disaster scenarios

Medical students from the University of Tasmania have responded to mass casualty scenarios in large-scale training exercises on the West Coast.

The Emergency Skills course is coordinated by the Rural Clinical School annually for final-year medicine students, who are immersed in realistic emergency environments to learn about disaster management and critical response in rural or remote areas.

Guided by emergency services personnel and health professionals, the 29 students this year responded to simulated time-critical disasters in Queenstown (Thursday, 16 March) and Strahan (Friday, 17 March), facilitating patient treatment, retrieva, and mock medical phone calls.

Associate Professor Deb Wilson, Co-Director of the Rural Clinical School, said the students were challenged to put their emergency medicine knowledge and skills into practice with no briefings about each casualty event.

“The Emergency Skills course has been designed to provide realistic settings for our students to experience responding to unforeseen rural emergencies where there are limited resources available,” Associate Professor Wilson said.

“As rural doctors, they will need to exercise time-critical judgment and treatment while working effectively with emergency services and health professionals to ensure patients receive the best possible care.

“There were wilderness scenarios in Queenstown where the students treated mock casualties presenting with a number of medical emergencies. This training then culminated with a simulated mass casualty event in Strahan on Friday morning, the details of which remained unknown to the students until they arrived at the scene.”

Coordinator of the major casualty incident Ms Lynn Greives from the Rural Clinical School said the annual course would not be possible without the continuing support of the Tasmanian Ambulance, Fire and Police services, the health workforce, West Coast council and members of the community who volunteer time and resources.

“We value and greatly appreciate these relationships which help us facilitate this important training program that exposes our future doctors to working in rural and remote environments,” Ms Greives said.

“This is also a timely opportunity for the local emergency services and health professionals to practice their own emergency procedures when responding to a rural disaster event.”

West Coast residents were advised to be mindful of the Rural Clinical School training events,  which attracted a large visual presence of emergency services personnel across the two days.

The West Coast Emergency Skills course was preceded by a day of presentations and hands-on stations at the Rural Clinical School in Burnie (Wednesday, 15 March),which allowed the students to practice and prepare their emergency medicine skills ahead of the rural training events.

Pictured: From left, responders Rachel Stafford, Callan Oakeshott, Sam Hamilton and Vincent Gan treat a 'casualty'.