For a few minutes on a cool Friday morning, the mysterious “McCoy” was all anyone was talking about at MCC’s Health Science Institute.
“It isn’t right! It isn’t fair! Bring back McCoy!” protesters shouted in the parking lot as they marched in a circle holding signs like “Employ McCoy” and “If You Can Read This, Thank McCoy.”
But then, at precisely 9:06 a.m., a loud boom erupted and protesters started falling to the ground screaming.
Fortunately, every bit of the drama was scripted, part of a simulated mass casualty exercise at HSI, which is part of the MCC-Penn Valley campus.
Still, the “wounds” on the live “patients” and patient simulators looked awfully real. Both the human actors and non-human simulators — essentially high-tech mannequins, controlled by people nearby with tablets and laptops — moaned in pain.
Within seconds of the flash-bang explosion, MCC police, fire and EMS students were on scene to assess the patients, load many onto stretchers and move them to a triage area inside.
Before the March 31 exercise started — but after the volunteers playing patients were made up with fake wounds — everyone gathered in a large classroom.
“Do you know if we’re supposed to be conscious or unconscious?” one victim asked another. A sign on a table read “Confederates Check-in.” (No, not a Civil War thing. Confederates would be bystanders at the protest.)
Nearby, Patrick Loosen, a former EMT student, appeared to have something metal sticking out of his midsection, plus a nasty-looking abrasion on his neck and various bruises and cuts elsewhere. Officially, he was patient Y-7, and he held a profile sheet that described his condition.
MCC simulation instructor Todd Geringer told the gathering that overacting was welcome. “My patients, I want a lot of pain,” he said. “We’re going for a sense of realism.”
He also emphasized safety. Even with all the simulating going on, a real accident could occur — for instance, someone falling and chipping a tooth. If something like that happened, Geringer said, the actor was to raise one hand and put the other hand on top of the head.
Protesters with a “3” in their birth dates were told to fall to the ground after the big bang, when the area would be “totally saturated with rescuers.”
This was an interdisciplinary exercise that also involved MCC nursing and health information management students. (The police and fire students attend MCC-Blue River’s Public Safety Institute; the others are at HSI.)
The goal was for students “to work together through the scenario,” Geringer said. The response would be analyzed later, and videos of the exercise shown to future students.
Geringer said it took more than a year to plan the mass casualty event.
“It’s like presenting a giant play that has 80 actors in it,” he said.
Among the actors was MCC-Penn Valley interim President Dr. Tony Ross, who got jostled as police students tried to keep an especially animated protester out of his face. (Later, an agitated Ross would also suffer a “heart attack” in a hospital hallway.) Penn Valley dean of students Yvette Sweeney, meanwhile, wandered the parking lot yelling, “Has anyone seen my daughter?”
Later, inside the triage area, an EMS student leaned over one of the patient simulators. “Can you tell me your name?” he asked.
The simulators can breathe, talk, even open and close their eyes.
“Do you know your birthday?” another patient (this time a human actor) was asked.
After patients were attended to in triage, they were wheeled off to rooms inside HSI’s Virtual Hospital. “It’s all right, buddy,” a nursing student told another simulator, after EMS students moved the patient from gurney to bed.
“Stay with us here. Can you open your eyes for me? What’s hurting? Can you tell me?”
Then, to one of his colleagues: “Can we get a blood pressure? Do you feel a pulse?”
“His breathing is getting more shallow,” another student announced.
Shortly afterward, a doctor entered the room.
David Sommerkamp of Gaumard Scientific, the maker of some of HSI’s body simulators, operated a double-amputee simulator during the exercise. The mass casualty event had “the right amount of people, the right amount of simulators, in the right amount of space,” Sommerkamp said.
MCC’s Health Science Institute is at the “head of the class in the Midwest” when it comes to facilities and simulators, Sommerkamp added.
HSI’s last mass casualty exercise was three years ago. Exercises of this sort allow students to gain confidence in their critical thinking skills while challenging their ability to work with care providers from other disciplines, Geringer said.
Fox 4, KCTV-5, KMBC-9 and 41 Action News covered the event.