Nursing students team up with FBI and local hospitals for bioterrorism drill

Students stand near the emergency room and trauma center at one of the participating hospitals

Students from the Johnson/Beth-El Nursing program Public Health course experienced a critical incident response to a bioterrorism attack through portraying injured patients.

Sara Baird, CommonSpirit Health Emergency Preparedness & Fire-Life Safety Educator, reached out to Sylvia Sevcikova, Nursing Instructor, to bring UCCS students into a mock botulism poisoning exercise. Three CommonSpirit Hospitals, the FBI and American Medical Response (AMR) teamed up to test local law enforcement, public health and hospital response to a wide-scale bioterrorism attack.

“It was a great opportunity for our actors and students to work together as patients for a large-scale simulation in the community,” said Julie Sweum, Simulation Program Manager of Beth-El Undergraduate Nursing. “Working with other hospitals over the entire city and with so many teams was really exciting!”

Student Wendy Moreno feigns a botulism poisoning for the drill

The students, along with some actors, portrayed patients who had been poisoned with botulism. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, botulism “is a rare but serious illness caused by a toxin that attacks the body’s nerves and causes difficulty breathing, muscle paralysis, and even death.”

“This was a wonderful example of working together with our community partners to help them train to improve their response to weapons of mass destruction as well as give our students experiences that we could not provide for them in our usual clinical settings,” noted Lynn Philips, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Simulation Learning Center Director.

“Everybody did a fantastic job working together to make this experience as real as possible,” Sweum added. “It was absolutely incredible being involved in such a large-scale emergency preparedness exercise with the FBI.”

About the UCCS College of Nursing and Health Sciences

The Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences provides both traditional and accelerated undergraduate nursing, graduate nursing and health sciences degrees. Established in 1904, the college offers state-of-the-art facilities, including the Johnson Beth-El Clinics at the Lane Center, sports medicine programs through the William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center and advanced clinical rotation supplementation through the Simulation Learning Center. Learn more about the Johnson Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences at UCCS.