Paramedics on hand at Flinders footbridge “collapse”

Paramedic Science students in a mass casualty exercise

The Flinders University footbridge, which connects the main campus with the Sturt and student housing precinct, became a disaster zone after it “collapsed” as part of a simulated mass casualty exercise this week.

In scenes of fictional chaos, about 70 third year Bachelor of Paramedic Science students were required to act out a disaster management process in the expansive gully below the footbridge using 25 first and second year students as patients.

As part of the exercise, students were divided into groups and required to perform specific tasks, including establishing an effective communications system, assessing the terrain for accessibility and resource provision, triaging the casualties according to injuries and moving them to safety.

Flinders Paramedic Science lecturer Tim Pointon said while the exercise is designed to be fun and challenging, it is a formal part of the degree assessed through participation and written work.

“The students don’t know what they’re dealing with until they arrive on scene so they’re required to think on their feet about effective radio communications, resource allocation and transport priorities,” Mr Pointon, Course Coordination for International, Regional and Postgraduate Programs, said.

“It’s a process of providing the greatest good for the greatest numbers, which means the students have some very difficult decisions to make about who must be left behind because they are too sick to survive,” he said.

“Much of this goes against all the previous learning which focuses on providing high levels of care to an individual, so this presents a significant challenge for the students.”

Mr Pointon said the overall aim of the exercise is to help students develop an appreciation of the roles and responsibilities they will have as paramedics, including the ability to work in tricky situations.

“Major incidents do not happen in well resources and accessible environments. They often occur in remote areas or where the normal infrastructure has collapsed.

“As major incidents are rare and highly stressful events, it is important to practice the roles and become familiar with the system.

“Any paramedic could one day find themselves as the first crew on the scene and will need to respond accordingly – it could happen to a graduate in their first few weeks of work or a student on clinical placements.”

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