A potentially deadly accident and people with life-threatening injuries are rushed to the emergency room. ER personnel step into trauma mode, but when it is all over, it is not real.
In fact, it was an exercise put on by the administrators of Dan C. Trigg Memorial Hospital and the area’s emergency services Wednesday, March 17.
Eight young people from Tucumcari High School were enlisted by principal Gary Salazar to act as victims in a truck/automobile accident where the truck was leaking hazardous materials and from there on the “accident” was treated with deadly seriousness with all emergency personnel treating it and the victims as if it and they were real.
To add to the realism, the high school students were made up to simulate specific injuries and maladies.
“We tried to make it as real as possible,” said Tucumcari Fire Chief Mike Cherry. “The more real it is, the better it teaches.”
Cherry and hospital safety manager Matt Posinski set up the exercise as a surprise for their emergency personnel. The personnel who would be dealing with the faux injured individuals had been told such an exercise would be coming, but not when or how extensive it would be.
“They had no idea that we were slamming them with this,” said Cherry.
Posinski said that the exercise went on despite “real” patients being in the emergency room.
“The real patients were our first priority, of course, but other than that, everything went on as if the accident and injuries were real.”
Both of the individuals in charge said they felt that the exercise was very successful.
“I felt that it went fairly well,” said Posinski. “We learned a great deal, and that’s what this is all about.”
Tucumcari Emergency Medical Services head Larry Rigdon agreed with Posinski.
“I thought it was a very good training exercise,” said Rigdon.
The fire chief also agreed with Rigdon, but said that while successful, it was not without errors.
“But that’s why we do this,” said Cherry, “to find out where we need to improve, what we need to improve. We noted some procedures and polices that do, in fact, need to be improved.”
In all, 40 people took part in the exercise: high school students, police officers, drivers, doctors, EMTs, dispatchers, administrators, med techs and nurses.
For Posinski, the education of the emergency personnel was paramount, but at least one of the “injured” high school students taking part also found it educational.
“This was definitely a learning experience,” said Andy Lau from the emergency room gurney on which he was lying. “I didn’t know what to expect when Mr. Salazar asked me if I wanted to take part.