What’s one way to instantly engage a group of health sciences students? Try kicking off a learning exercise with a recording of a 911 rural emergency call, then give them 38 patients to triage with limited access to resources.

The call was scripted and the patients were hypothetical, but the urgency in the room was real at a recent Interprofessional Disaster Simulation. The “tabletop simulation” was attended by students from the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, UIC College of Nursing (Urbana campus), the School of Social Work and Public Health graduate students from the College of Applied Health Sciences.

Listening to the 911 call, the students learned that a group of people working in fields to detassel corn had been inadvertently sprayed with chemicals by a crop duster. The simulation objective was to work as interprofessional teams, combining their knowledge to manage the health disaster.

“It was really interesting to work through a triage experience with a group of people who see the problem from different angles,” said Lidija Barbaric, a second year Carle Illinois student. “Seeing how a medical team works together makes you realize how important management and leadership are, and how different people bring important skills.”

Assessing the resources needed and available, creating a decontamination plan, and determining patient priority according to symptoms and other factors were all part of the discussion. As the disaster continued to play out teams were given emerging information, requiring them to quickly pivot.

Janet Liechty, an associate professor at both the School of Social Work and Carle Illinois, said interprofessional simulations are an important way to prepare for work in healthcare fields.

“Healthcare is very team oriented, in a way that’s very closely articulated,” Professor Liechty said. “The more you can get people into teams as students so they can experience different perspectives, practice communication, and work out what the various roles are, the more prepared they’ll be for the way healthcare actually works.”