Disaster drill to teach benefits of interprofessional cooperation

When terrorists struck New York’s Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, first-responders in different departments couldn’t communicate by radio. Lives were lost to the inability to share information and collaborate.

On Sept. 11, 2014, UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth will sponsor a disaster drill to train students to collaborate with all the professionals who would respond in an emergency.

Representatives from a dozen North Texas agencies will share their expertise during a tabletop drill. The scenario is a killer contagious disease invading the community. Students in UNTHSC’s School of Public Health and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences will work together in an interprofessional exercise to combat the mystery malady.

They’ll watch clips from the 2011 movie Contagion. Then they’ll break into small groups, draw roles at random such as hospital CEO, mayor and public school emergency manager, and work together to save their community from the mock disaster.

Guided discussions will explore questions such as

  • Which agency should lead the response to a public health emergency?
  • As the disease spreads, what additional resources are needed, and where can you get them?
  • Which groups should get the first round of vaccinations?

Discussion facilitators will include representatives from Tarrant County Public Health, City of Denton, MedStar, local firefighters and police, Chamber of Commerce, local hospitals and others.

The exercise, which will be replicated Sept. 25 for an additional group of students, is the result of UNTHSC’s initiatives in interprofessional education and practice.

The purpose is to break down silos that impede effective teaching and learning, academic-community partnerships, research and medical care.

"For example, terminology may differ among professions," said Brad Cannell, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology and a member of the committee responsible for coordinating the exercise, "not to mention different concerns according to which group of people they have responsibility for."

"When we realized our IPE/IPP exercise was scheduled for Sept. 11, a disaster drill seemed appropriate," said Cannell, a commissioned environmental science officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. "Preparing for disaster provides an exceptional backdrop or context to stress the importance of interprofessional collaboration." 

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