Today was the first full-scale exercise that the interns were able to take part of. It was a mass casualty training for Mount Sinai St. Luke’s, a hospital near Columbia University. When I first heard of the exercise, I imagined something similar to the scene in Parks and Recreation when the hypothetical avian flu hit Pawnee. However, my exercise was a bit more interactive.
The MRC volunteers and DOHMH staff wore vests – yellow for volunteers and blue for staff. The volunteers would be the patients in the provided scenario (we were all in a triathlon when a truck ran into the crowd and an active shooter started shooting at everyone), and the staff would coordinate everything.
Volunteers were instructed to enter in waves of 11, and I was in wave 2. When my wave started, I had to be brought in to triage ward where all the other “patients” were being diagnosed. Since my character was pregnant and unconscious, I basically just laid on the bed with my eyes closed as I listened to all the interns and then doctors gather around me, debating whether they should put me in surgery to save the baby or give me a black tag (essentially declare me dead). The main issue was that my character wasn’t dead yet, but they had a lot of “patients” who were in need of the emergency room, so they decided that I had less chance of being saved. Of course I thought that this was unfair, but in times of actual large-scale emergencies, doctors really do have a tough decision to make when there isn’t enough time or resource to save everyone’s lives.
After the drill, the volunteers had to fill out a form evaluating the response and efficiency of the hospital staff. One of the hospital staff mentioned that during 9/11, he noticed that a lot of hospitals were in disarray when crowds of people all came in at once, so these drills were great ways to learn how to best coordinate manpower in times of actual emergencies.
I doubt that this will be the last time I will pretend to be a patient in order to gauge a hospital’s response. One of my supervisors told me that when he was an intern, a staff told him to “fake a heart attack” in the middle of the hallway, and without question, my supervisor dropped onto the floor with his hands grasping his chest, and he was wheeled into the emergency room down the hallway of people. I know that sometimes interns will have to go into hospitals alone pretending to be patients (complete with the sickly makeup), but in that scenario, the doctors and staff will not know that it is a drill so you will get to see real responses of doctors when there is a medical emergency. I really have to practice my acting skills for when that time comes.