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Major emergency simulation provides hundreds of students with a unique learning opportunity

Hundreds of University of Gloucestershire students from a wide range of professions gained specialist skills and experience to enhance their learning and development at a unique major emergency simulation.

‘Operation Rockfall’ was designed by the university’s skills and simulation team to be as realistic as possible, with students performing a number of critical roles within a stressful environment following the ‘collapse’ of a stage at music gig at the University’s Oxstalls Campus that resulted in a large number of casualties.

Students worked alongside members of the emergency services, including South Western Ambulance Service, St John Ambulance, the critical care team from Great Western Air Ambulance, local NHS Hospital teams and Gloucestershire Police, while the ‘injured’ included University staff, students, graduates, and actors with additional needs from Inclusion Gloucestershire.

The University’s Oxstalls Teaching Centre was temporarily turned into the Oxstalls University Hospital featuring an emergency department, resus bay, a minor injuries unit, X-ray and imaging facility, assessment ward and an operating theatre.

people being treated for injuries after a stage collapses

The simulated activity provided students from a range of programmes, including Paramedic Science, Nursing, Student Nursing Associates, Operating Department Practitioners, Diagnostic Radiography, Physiotherapy, Healthcare Science, Professional Policing, Journalism, Media Communications, Sports Therapy, Business, along with medical students from Bristol Medical School, with opportunities to build upon the knowledge they had gained from their respective courses.

The simulation included a journalism and crisis communications element where students from BA (Hons) Journalism, BA (Hons) Communications and Media, and MBA Global Administration gathered information and produced simulated mainstream and social media content, considered business crisis communications management, and learned about reporting on an unfolding incident.

injured people waiting to be attended to in a tent

Jess Dickinson, (BA (Hons) Media and Communications), said: “The experience was really eye opening into what our future professions might be like. It really showed how we can connect to help create safe messages for the public.”

Student Dan Brooks (BSc (Hons) Professional Policing) said: “We’ve done a few practicals before but nothing to this extent. I really enjoyed it, even though I was quite stressed at times because I’ve never been in a situation where there are so many people coming at you needing help and information. It was certainly beneficial for me, a positive experience.”

Grace Wellens, (BSc (Hons) Paramedic Science) said: “It was quite tense, quite stressful, but it’s been a good experience. I’ve improved my clinical knowledge and been helping with scene management and working with other services, such as the police and the hospital staff. It’s the first time that I’ve ever done anything like this before and I’ve definitely gained a lot from it.”

Lydia Robinson (BSc (Hons) Nursing (Adult)) said: “We were doing the bed management side in hospital, which I’ve never done – I’ve only watched the bed managers before – so it was really good to get a different perspective. I didn’t realise how much pressure the bed managers were under.

“I’ve learned about communication, being able to prioritise, building confidence, the need to keep calm in a stressful environment, and working with a team – it’s a very multi-disciplinary environment.”

nurses attending to a patient on a bed

Simon Kersey, Practice Skills and Simulation Lead within the University’s School of Health and Social Care, said: “Operation Rockfall is unique in terms of UK university-based simulation because not only is it supported by our NHS and emergency service practice partners, it involves colleagues and students from the School of Health and Social Care and across the wider university to make it a truly multi-professional collaboration.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the students to practice their skills in an inter-professional system, notably modern healthcare and modern emergency response, and learn and work together with simulated casualties in a stressful but safe environment.

“The exercise is principally focused on inter-professional communication, and for students to remain professional, calm and effective in the role despite whatever stress they might come up against.

“The idea is to give them ‘stress inoculation’, to help them cope with stress, so when they go into the stresses of the real world, the modern emergency environment, they’re better able to deal with the challenges and to care for their patients effectively.”