Always Prepared and Always Trained

By Joan Spitrey, via Multibriefs

Everyone who works in a hospital has endured the on-board training to insure they can safely work at the facility. There is the fire safety, disaster safety and mass casualty, to name a few.

And annual updates need to be performed each year to insure every employee knows what to do in an actual emergency. But, like most, they never believe a true emergency will happen to them — until it does.

Hospital emergency plans are established to maintain order and assist in keeping safe the vulnerable patients in their care. These plans help healthcare providers adapt to disasters that place them in unfamiliar and unusual situations. But the plans can only work if everyone knows what to do. Thus, the training and reinforcement continues annually so everyone stays aware and up to date.

This past year, that training has truly been put into action across the country. First was the mass casualty shooting in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015. On a seemingly typical day, pages went off displaying "Mass shooting. This is not a drill."

Certainly, the adrenaline was high as patients began to arrive. To complicate matters, the shooter was still at large, and a bomb threat needed to be cleared. Despite all the distractions and stress, the teams came together and efficiently cared for all the patients who arrived — just as they had been trained.

In June, Orlando citizens had to witness firsthand the tragedy of a mass shooting at a local nightclub. Again, pagers went off showing "Mass casualty is in effect due to active shooter more than 20 traumas." In a single beep, the entire course of the night was instantly changed.

However, as they had trained before, the staff of the trauma center was quickly mobilized and care triaged and rendered. Although gunshot victims were commonplace, never had their emergency department been turned into a "war scene," as described by one of the physicians.

In September 2016, as a hospital in the Tampa Bay area was preparing for a hurricane, a fire broke out in their generator room. Suddenly, the hospital was without power, and those emergency plans had to immediately be put into action.

Ambulances were summoned from all surrounding counties as all 209 patients needed to be evacuated. Although it was the first time they experienced a full-scale evacuation, the staff — who had been trained for such an unlikely event — began carrying patients down flights of stairs to be transported to other area hospitals.

In hindsight, these all seem like "unlikely" events for the average healthcare worker, but in reality, any of these events could happen anywhere. The key is to learn from them and remember the importance of the training that often is pushed to the side, as "it will never happen here."

Joan Spitrey has been a registered nurse for more than 16 years, specializing in critical care and acute care services. She currently is a clinical nursing instructor, sharing her passion with the next generation of nurses. She can be found blogging at

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