Disaster Medicine and Management Students Develop Critical Skills in Real-World Training

Disaster medicine and management students learned about chemical decontamination as part of the on-site training.

Disaster medicine and management students learned about chemical decontamination as part of the on-site training.

The University’s M.S. in Disaster Medicine and Management students have wrapped up seven intensive days working in the field, participating in disaster drills and refining their knowledge, skills and abilities.

“Marrying academics with real-world experience is critical to developing critical-thinking and application skills,” said Jean Bail, director of the disaster medicine and management program at Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University).

During the annual week of on-site training, 17 students in the disaster exercise and drills class studied emergency operations at the Delaware Emergency Management Agency in Smyrna, critical infrastructures at the PBF Energy refinery in Delaware City and participated in hands-on disaster simulation exercises in Hershey, Pa., with members of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Milton Hershey School, Hershey Entertainment, Hershey’s Chocolate World and Hershey Lodge.

Student Megan McConnell said practicing hazmat decontamination with Hershey Medical Center was one highlight of the week.

“It was an opportunity to take material I read about every day and put into practice,” she said. “I now understand more of the logistics involved and how important it is to take care of your people in emergency management. I wouldn’t have learned these things in a completely book-based curriculum.”

International student Cristina Pareja found the decontamination drills beneficial as well, especially since her home country of Ecuador doesn’t follow the same protective measures as does the U.S., she said.

“It helped me to clarify concepts and to understand how emergency management works in real life,” Pareja said. “It was truly an enriching and knowledge-filled experience.”

During the on-site training, students also heard from experts such as Dr. Dan Hanfling, professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University and consultant on emergency preparedness, response and crisis management, who spoke about the role of emergency management in healthcare, including hospital planning and healthcare coalitions.

In addition, students created and conducted disaster tabletop exercises, which McConnell said helped build new knowledge and skills. “When I go on a job interview, my portfolio includes work samples that I wouldn’t have had if the disaster medicine and management program didn’t emphasize the importance of hands-on training,” she said.

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