Escaping a Mass Casualty Incident

New Alternative to MCI Drill Makes Participants Think Critically

Dozens of attendees this week are spending time earnestly trying to get out of one session as quickly as possible.

Participants of the Escape Room, an alternative to the full-scale mass casualty incident drills found in Emergency Nursing 2015 and 2017, will work against the clock to solve MCI-level patient scenarios.  

Unlike traditional escape rooms in which participants might flee from zombies or diffuse a bomb, Emergency Nursing 2018 Escape Room teams of as many as seven are trapped in a mock ED with one or more patients facing a critical situation that must be appropriately diagnosed and treated within 30 minutes. 

Wednesday marked the first day of competition, with trials continuing today and Friday.

Smiling winners said it was definitely challenging, in part because they were teamed with people from different hospitals.

“Each faculty teaches its own processes, so working with people you don’t know made it even more challenging,” said Kolt Merrill of Ft. Collins, Colorado. “I would highly recommend it. It’s a good refresher on things we hadn’t done in a while.”

ENA’s Emergency Nursing 2018 Education Planning Committee jumped at the chance to approve the escape room concept. They believed it would keep the MCI component of the conference fresh and exciting. 

“We wanted to do something educational but fun,” said Denise Abernethy, who led the team that designed the game for the conference. “Many attendees come to the conference every year expecting days of lectures. Having something different is exciting and entertaining. The goal is for them to go back home remembering what they learned.”

But Abernethy said no one should come into the Escape Room thinking it’s going to be easy.

“We have a couple concepts in the game that a lot of nurses aren’t necessarily trained in,” she said in a recent article in ENA Connection. “We’re not going the route of obvious problems. There will be some disaster leadership skills they’re not used to employing.”

If teams get stuck and need some help, monitors are available to offer hints — but they come at a price. Each hint given adds time to the clock, making an already small window of time to complete the challenge even smaller.

The scenario doesn’t change from team to team, so secrecy is key to the success of the event. But Abernethy isn’t worried; self-preservation is a strong motivator to keep silent.

“No team that competes will want to talk about it, because that will make it easier for the teams behind them to escape,” she said.