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Airport Plane-Crash Exercise Gives MTC Students Life-Changing Lessons

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During the AirSafe mock exercise, MTC student
Aimee Axtell (center) suffered a “gash” to her forehead.

When the Columbia Metropolitan Airport needed volunteer victims for a plane-crash exercise, Midlands Technical College (MTC) students were quick to respond. The students and their faculty said this adrenaline-charged event gave them life-changing lessons that can't be taught in a classroom.

"This exercise is an awesome tool for the students to experience as closely as possible what it's like being a trauma victim," said Millie Massey, Program Director for the MTC Radiologic Technology program. "We can only simulate so far in the classroom and labs. This exercise gives students the opportunity to experience the emotions and chaos of these situations."

The AirSafe exercise was a joint effort between the Columbia International Airport and other emergency, law enforcement, and federal agencies. The Federal Aviation Administration requires that commercial airports conduct an emergency exercise every three years to test emergency plan effectiveness. The training included a simulated aircraft accident where emergency personnel and airport staff tested their ability to treat mass casualties.

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About 25 MTC students participated in the exercise
that involved 21 first-responder agencies and 176 volunteers.

This exercise involved 21 first-responder agencies and 176 volunteers. A senior in the MTC radiology program, Gabrielle Brock, was one of about 25 MTC students who were cast to play victims of the airplane crash.

"I enjoyed being a part of this experience," said Brock. "While participating, I really was able to see how it could feel to be on the other side as a patient. I also realized how important it is to communicate with your coworkers to make sure your patient is correctly taken care of quickly and as best as possible."

Brock said she understands a lot of people play a role when a victim has trauma. She was one of the exercise’s victims whose simulated injuries required evacuation to the hospital.

"Once I arrived at the hospital, I was impressed with how fast they got everyone triaged and into a room," she said. "Going through the steps as a real victim helped me see the true importance of our jobs and how important good communication and patient care is. This experience helped me have a better understanding of what goes on behind the scenes before patients arrive at a hospital."

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(left to right) MTC radiography students Lotfi Kouadri, Eric Keller,
Gabrielle Brock, had various degrees of “injuries” during the plane crash.

Brittney Trotter, a junior in the MTC Radiologic Technology program, said she has seen how regular communications with a trauma patient, or any patient, can be a part of the healing process.

"It showed us how important it is that we are prompt and attentive to our patients," said Trotter. "Not leaving patients hanging and keeping them updated is extremely important, as well as communication with the staff to make sure everyone is on the same page. Patients put their trust in us, and it's our responsibility to make them as comfortable and safe as possible. Now, I have an idea as to what these patients have been through before they even reach the hospital radiology department."

Massey encourages student participation every time this opportunity and others like it are offered to MTC students by the college’s community partners.

"I’m proud that these students stepped outside their comfort level to play trauma victims for the exercise. This ‘next to real’ event is not something all health care professionals get to experience.  This will have a tremendous impact on them for the rest of their lives and the patients they touch each day!”

MTC’s Radiologic Technology program requires students to perform rotations through various hospitals, offices, trauma centers, and immediate care areas of radiology. Clinical experiences (externships/internships) are arranged through affiliations with local hospitals and other health care facilities. Learn more about MTC’s Radiologic Technology program.

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MTC student Lisa Hazuda is helped to the ambulance site by first responders.