Disaster drill an exciting preview of health careers

Third annual MassAHEC HOSA Conference held at UMMS

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

April 11, 2012

“Help us, please, my sister is hurt!” yells someone at a clinic in which a bomb has just exploded. Other victims, some covered with blood or nursing shattered bones, stumble around moaning or dazed with shock among the injured, dying and dead strewn on the ground, as highly skilled first responders work efficiently to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people in the aftermath of this disaster with many casualties.

Fortunately, this time the victims were mostly inflatable dummies, and the mass casualty was a simulation, created for the benefit of nearly 200 high school and college students interested in health care careers who attended the third annual Massachusetts Area Health Education Centers (MassAHEC) Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) Student Leadership Conference. The mass casualty drill was the highlight of the full-day conference, which was held at UMass Medical School on Saturday, March 31.

The high school and college students, all members of MassAHEC HOSA chapters across Massachusetts, met and learned from physicians, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists, community health workers, respiratory technicians, medical students and residents during the drill and other activities. In addition to the mass casualty disaster drill, students participated in health care skills competitions, career seminars, speed networking with health professionals, and a variety of hands-on learning activities.

“In bringing the chapters together for these activities, the annual state leadership conference gives students an opportunity to showcase their skills and knowledge, and earn public recognition and awards, with opportunities to learn about health careers, hone their networking techniques, and meet peers with similar interests,” said Sharon Grundel, MEd, manager of workforce development for MassAHEC and MassAHEC HOSA coordinator.

Gina Smith, RN, director of emergency preparedness for UMass Memorial Health Care and team commander of the Massachusetts-2 Disaster Medical Assistance Team, co-led the drill with Mary-Elise Manuell, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine and director of the department’s Division of Disaster Medicine and Emergency Management. In an orientation prior to the mock disaster, Smith explained the basics of mass casualty response and then the students split into three groups that rotated among three stations: one for triage, one for transport and one for personal protective equipment.

At the debriefing session following the drill—standard procedure following all drills and real-life disasters—students shared what they had learned. “I learned what triage is, the four levels of personal protective equipment, and what an Ambulance Bus is,” said one teen. “Before today we didn’t know how to 60-second triage,” said another. “We learned the personal protective equipment priority levels,” said a third. “Before today I didn’t realize how many levels of management are required in a catastrophe,” said an adult community college student. “We learned a lot, thank you,” he added.

View the slideshow to see highlights of the disaster drill and the UMMS faculty, residents, staff and students who volunteered their time to share their enthusiasm for their health care careers with MassAHEC HOSA members.


Endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education, HOSA is a national organization of more than 130,000 students which focuses on academic achievement, public service to the community and professional skills development. Supported in the commonwealth by the MassAHEC Network at UMass Medical School and the Massachusetts Department of Education, MassAHEC HOSA became the state affiliate of the national HOSA program in 2009. Since then the organization has experienced rapid growth in high schools, colleges and community-based workforce development programs, now counting nearly 350 members in 18 chapters statewide.

Related links:
High school students learn about future health care jobs
High school students today, health care leaders tomorrow
Health Care Pathways helps teachers prepare students for promising careers
UMass Medical School hosts career awareness conference for Massachusetts students

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