The Williamson County Nursing Conference
August 7, 2013 | Hutto High School, Hutto, Texas
The Williamson County Nursing Conference, an annual conference for health department and school nurses, celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Featured presentations in the morning focused on how to organize and respond to a mass casualty incident and how a Mass Medication Dispensing Point of Dispensing (POD) is organized. Schools and health officials work together in both these types of events. After the presentations, attendees had the opportunity to participate in a Mass Casualty Incident full-scale exercise as well as a POD exercise. Over the years the conference has presented topics to help health department and school nurses work together for the benefit of the communities in Williamson County. Now, the conference is attracting school nurses from around Texas.
The inspiration for hands-on exercise during the conference came after the Texas School Nurse Organization and Georgetown Independent School District sponsored previous full-scale exercises.
The Georgetown ISD Nursing Department and Health and Safety Committee sponsored a back-to-school training day because of an incident involving a car that drove through an elementary classroom one Saturday evening in Georgetown in 2011. Luckily, the driver was not seriously hurt, and no other people were injured by the accident. However, if students had been in the classroom, this type of incident could have seriously strained the capabilities of the school as well as emergency responders. BSA Venturing Crew 911 scouts from Georgetown planned, wrote and served as controllers for the 25-patient full scale exercise designed around a car/building accident scenario.
The Texas School Nurses Organization asked to offer similar training. In April 2012, the Venturing Crew 911 scouts again planned, wrote, recruited actors and controlled two exercises for the TSNO meeting. One was a 15-patient scenario with severe weather and straight-line winds at a sporting event; the other was a 17-patient gas main explosion in a cafeteria mass casualty incident. About 17 nurses participated in the training, which helped to prepare the Venturing Crew 911 scouts in order to design and run the WCNC 2013 exercises, which involved a total of 140 nurses and 56 actors.
The complexity and pace of the Williamson County Nursing Conference exercise challenged the nurses to try out new skills without overwhelming them. The scouts wrote the individual actor’s scenarios, and even learned how to pour and paint their own wound prosthetics using silicone material. In their roles as controllers, they were involved all summer in the planning for the exercise.
The nurses performed very well meeting the objectives of the exercises, and a consensus believes that Texas nurses need more of these types of experiences so that schools are better prepared. Many said in their conference evaluations that they plan to put into practice what they’ve learned in order to better prepare other staff in case emergencies should happen in their schools and work places.
This type of training provides school nurses with realistic triage skills training and responding to a mass casualty incident. They also become more familiar with the Incident Command System and NIMS as well.
Planning for the 2014 Williamson County Nursing Conference is underway. Possible topics for presentations include public health and school nursing legal considerations, legislative changes that affect health department and school nurse areas of practice, standards of care for their specialties as well as any new public health concerns.
In the past, the conference has been a crucial factor in the health department and schools responding to H1N1 epidemic, business continuity plans for the area, illness surveillance and managing the whooping cough/pertussis outbreak. The schools and health department have a strong cooperative working relationship since they better understand the needs of each organization and how they can best help each other to accomplish their missions.
Because of annual conference, school and public health nurses in Georgetown feel they are better prepared to assist their communities in times of crisis. The nurses have also realized the importance of participating in exercises that improve their organization's response abilities. Local area hospitals are also asking the schools to be involved with their exercises and have a joint exercise planned in the near future that will involve some health science students, Venturing Crew 911 scouts along with emergency planners from Georgetown ISD.