In an effort to boost the capacity of first-responders following disasters like the earthquake in Haiti or the Indonesian tsunami, International Medical Corps co-sponsored a scenario-based, medical action training program to prepare physicians for the initial phase of post-disaster environments. The immersion course offered scenario-based skill development to improve the ability of physicians to deal with primitive conditions, fatigue and mental stress during disasters. The 3-day program was held in North Little Rock, Arkansas at the Direct Action Resource Center (DARC)– a training facility that focuses on experience- and scenario-based skill development.
Dr. Robert Fuller, who served on International Medical Corps’ emergency response teams in Banda Aceh following the tsunami and Port-au-Prince after the earthquake, and who is head of the University of Connecticut Health Center’s Emergency Department, helped oversee the course. Fuller and a team of physicians and disaster response specialists designed the program to simulate a two-week deployment in a post-earthquake disaster setting. Training participants were taught leadership, communication and complex problem-solving skills while managing their physical and mental stress, contributing to the success of their team, maintaining personal security, and performing necessary medical and camp tasks.
Upon arrival, cell phones and other communication methods were removed and students were tasked with preparing a living space in an austere environment, developing a plan for their shelter, safety, water, food and sanitation. Sleep disruption and a limited food supply were also built into the program to simulate the fatigue and hunger common in post-disaster relief situations. After teams achieved basic living needs, they were charged with converting a metal roof covered cement slab into a hospital with operating capability. The capabilities of the makeshift facility and teams were challenged using increasingly ill and complex patients.
Fuller and his team were on hand to demonstrate appropriate medical techniques throughout the evolution of the simulated disaster. Students also received training and review of triage and field stabilization procedures for critical patients. Training participants left with an increased capacity in unfamiliar medical terrain under suboptimal conditions and with an expanded medical knowledge.