URI pharmacy students to gain disaster response experience through mock clinic

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Scenario is Category 5 hurricane in Rhode Island

KINGSTON, R.I. — May 3, 2006 — As a member of the Rhode Island Disaster Medical Assistance Team deployed to Louisiana to assist in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, Jeffrey Bratberg knows what works and what doesn’t.

Now the assistant professor of pharmacy at the University of Rhode Island wants to see how students in his advanced infectious and pulmonary diseases class would perform in the simulated aftermath of a Category 5 hurricane that strikes Rhode Island.

On Friday, May 12, Bratberg’s students will participate in a mock disaster clinic run by Bratberg and the Rhode Island Disaster Medical Assistance Team for their final exam. From 3 to 6 p.m., the last day of finals, members of the Disaster Medical Assistance Team, several of whom were in the Gulf of Mexico after Katrina, will erect a tent outside Mackal Field House as a field clinic for the exercise.

“The students are working in groups to develop lists of drugs they would provide at a disaster site. Then, they will be tested on whether they made logical choices and how they respond to diseases for which they have no medicines,” Bratberg said.

The groups will exchange drug lists when the exercise starts so they will be working with lists that are unfamiliar to them.

“This will simulate what happens in a disaster response,” Bratberg said. “When we worked in New Orleans, the drug caches didn’t have all the medicines we needed, so we had to make appropriate decisions or order medications that we didn’t have.”

The students will face a variety of scenarios to test their preparation, ability to adapt in a crisis and act quickly to speed drug delivery and perform patient-centered care.

“They will learn about the limits faced by pharmacists and other health care professionals,” Bratberg said. “We want them to be prepared to work at plane crashes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and other disasters.”

He said emergency department data indicates that the number one presenting symptom is pain. “So we will see whether students requested adequate amounts of pain medication,” Bratberg said.

He said one of the critical goals in New Orleans was to make sure patients with chronic illnesses received medications to prevent hospitalization.

Members of the disaster team will serve as patients who will make rapid requests to each group of students, who then must make appropriate clinical decisions, therapeutic substitutions, and decisions related to logistics, command and security.

“My goal is to make the test of the cache list as a real as possible, with people who actually have made these requests to pharmacists like me in a disaster,” Bratberg said.

NOTE TO EDITORS: The clinic is open to print and broadcast reporters. To make coverage arrangements, call Dave Lavallee, URI Department of Communications, at 874-2116.