Disaster simulation drill provides pivotal experience for social work students

Emily Meyers meets with "victims"
Emily Meyers, pictured above on the far right, takes information from "victims" at disaster drill. 


At 10 a.m. on Friday, April 26, 2019, a train derailed and collided into a student apartment complex where dozens of people were left critically injured, their homes destroyed. This was the scenario for the simulated disaster drill held at the Auburn University School of Nursing. Shortly after 10 a.m., the School of Nursing was inundated with people who were affected by the disaster with everything from shrapnel injuries to limb amputations. The people who took on these victim roles began approaching the building while screaming out in pain and needing help. Students from the School of Nursing, the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, and the Harrison School of Pharmacy sprang into action to treat the “victims” of the accident. 

“Our students worked as a team to triage, stabilize, treat, and disposition multiple simulated penetrating and blunt traumas, crush injuries, and burns in men and women of all ages,” said Dr. Jeremy White, the Associate Dean for Simulation and Technology at VCOM-Auburn

At each of the simulated scenes, there were social work students who were working with the injured to get their information and help calm them in a stressful scenario. 

Dr. White organized the event, now in its third year. This was the first year that social work and pharmacy students were involved. 

“It has been one of my most memorable experiences during my time Auburn,” said social work senior Erika Alonzo. “At first, I was terrified as I began to hear all the victims, however, my training kicked-in and I was able to jump in as a competent participant and immediately began to work with the victims and family members.” 

The all-day event involved four separate two-hour simulations, each involving a surge of approximately 50 victims which required approximately 100 healthcare providers to rapidly pre-brief, activate an emergency operations plan, and perform critical tasks in facility security, decontamination, triage, and multiple treatment areas. 

“The experience of participating in the disaster simulation is invaluable. It allowed me an opportunity to practice what I’ve learned, to think on my feet, and to provide important services to victims during a crisis,” Alonzo said. “I hope to work as a clinical social worker, so this experience hit the bullseye for me.” 

The goal of the disaster response exercise is to help students in healthcare be more prepared, ready, and resilient in the event of a human-made or natural disaster.  

“This interdisciplinary event truly highlights many of the best attributes of each organization,” said Emily Myers, associate clinical professor of social work in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work. “I am really pleased to be part of it and have our social work students participate. They will be better prepared professionals when they graduate and enter the workforce.” 

Last Updated: May 09, 2019