October 26, 2011 | | Comments 8
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Random acts of impenetrable prose

Could I have a volunteer from the audience?

Whilst working in the upper part of the Midwest, I found an interesting take on how one might gather volunteers to help out as “victims” when conducting an emergency response exercise that calls for said victims (“paper” patients are OK in a pinch, but isn’t it way more fun/realistic to have some flesh-and-blood types to run through the process?) In this particular area, high school students, in order to fulfill their obligations for graduation, are charged with participating in X number of community service hours during their (hopefully) four-year stint. If I may opine for a moment, I think the community service idea is way cool and with any luck, might bring back the whole “taking care of each other” mindset that seems to have fled screaming into the night. I see way too much trash dumped by roadsides, etc., to think that we are accelerating as a culture toward a positive destination . . . but I digress.

At any rate, a process was set up with the schools that allowed for participation in emergency exercises to count toward the community service requirement. How cool is that? I don’t know if you have such a program in your neck of the woods, but I think it’s definitely worth checking out. And if you’re already doing this, how come you didn’t share it with the group? Shame, shame, shame…

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Filed Under: Emergency management

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About the Author: As managing editor, Tami Swartz creates hospital safety, security, life safety, infection control, accreditation, patient safety, and nursing content using expert analysis and input.

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  1. We have been doing this for years in our community. The kids are great actors and give our responders wonderful experience. It also piques their interest in health care and emergency preparedness. A win win for everyone!

  2. In North Brevard County Florida the High Schools have after school clubs for students that are interested in pursuring careers in Healthcare. These clubs have been more than willing in the past to participate in MCI’s, and supplied 40 “victims” for our last MCI.

  3. Great idea! Fun?? that depends… But safety, liability, and logistics (travel, training, staging, and meals, etc)for the volunteers before, during, and after the exercise caused us to stop using live volunteers for our exercises several years ago. We realized we were spending too much time and effort on managing the volunteers that detracted from the exercise. Now we just focus on the goals and objectives of the exercise. We manage people/patients everyday, so that should be a no-brainer. We do use live participants,if the role-play is a critical element of the exercise. In a recent MCI exercise, we included objectives for managing media and worried families and for those elements we used employees for role-play.

  4. Another excellent venue for volunteers is to tap into the local Home School groups; not only will you get kids of all ages, but you will get worried parents looking for their children or to serve as victims or both.

    We fed them and gave goody bags (that advertise our facility). The kids (and adults) REALLY got into the moulage as well as put on professional performances when presenting to triage.

    Home Schoolers have very flexible schedules and they can count this as community service as well..and did I mention that the kids usally come with parents?

  5. We have used Eagle Scout and Boy Scout troops for our exercises several times. They are respectful, helpful, and eager to do a good job. They even helped with clean up after the exercise. This enables them to get a badge and the Eagle Scouts if involved with the planning of the exercise earn even more credits.

  6. We have been doing this for years as well. You just have to be careful of the ages and getting liability releases and parent consents. Other sources of victims are nursing, medical, pharamcy and allied health schools. Professors and instructors oftem see this as a great way to let the students have some field experience, while doing good and having fun. Also look to the VA facilities, they often support/house homeless vet that are willing to help. For internal hospital exercises we have used the staff’s family members. They love to see how the hospital works and know it is helping thier family member and the community. For large scale exercises we have even advertised with great success, especially if tell people they get sometime. We had over 1,000 volunteers for an exercise at a professional baseball stadium were the victims got a free ticket. Another at an amusement park (closed for the season) that drew 600 volunteer victims when we opened one of the most popular rides and provided lunch.

  7. We also have been using this method, you can also use the Boy Scouts as they are in need of ours for their badges. Most local troops will jump at the chances.

  8. This is exactly what I want to do at my hospitals. My question is, what is your facility doing to cover the liability? My goal is to use actual pediatric and special needs patients but what steps should I consider for safety and liability concerns. Any suggestions or form templates would be appreciated as we are looking for best practice with this aspect.

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