Strengthening disaster medical preparedness for specialist nursing students

1 June 2023

A paramedic cares for a patient under rubble.

Uppsala University, Uppsala Fire Department and the Swedish Armed Forces are exercising together to strengthen disaster medical preparedness.

On 28 April, the Department of Surgical Sciences at Uppsala University conducted a successful collaborative exercise together with the medical platoon of the 13th Electronic Warfare Battalion in Enköping and the Uppsala Fire Department. The aim was, among other things, to use a realistic exercise to strengthen the skills of future specialist nurses in disaster medicine, where mental preparation and collaboration are vital.

The Specialist Nursing Programme at the Department of Surgical Sciences invests in developing teaching with a focus on current and future needs for collaboration in total defence. 

“We see the collaboration exercise as an important part of the future Specialist Nursing Programme. Through the exercise, the students have gained better knowledge and understanding of what is required of the profession and healthcare in a larger societal perspective,” says Anna Abelsson, Senior Lecturer and ambulance nurse at Uppsala University.

The exercise took place at the Fire and Rescue Service’s exercise field Viktoria. The scenario was based on a twilight situation in Sweden, where society is between war and peace. In the scenario, Uppsala and its surroundings have been affected by several unexplained events, such as explosions and disruptions to electricity, water and communications. The healthcare system and Uppsala University Hospital are overloaded and virtually unusable for the foreseeable future.

Two paramedics carry a patient on a stretcher.
The working environment presents physical and psychological challenges for patients and staff. Photo: Johan Lingsarve.

To meet the increased need for care, especially for trauma patients, the armed forces, together with the specialist nurses, established two trauma teams in a temporary building. There, care and assessment would be carried out with limited resources. The students specialising in ambulance, anaesthesia, intensive care, surgery and surgical care played an important role in providing safe and secure care for patients with injuries such as crush injuries, neurogenic injuries, shock, head trauma and penetrating injuries.

Two nurses are talking to a soldier over a patient.
The Swedish Armed Forces planned and carried out parts of the exercise for the students of the Specialist Nursing Programme. Photo: Cecilia Matteoni.

“We have learned a lot of different things, but above all, the lessons are how important it is with teamwork, communications and having a structured way of working, speaking clearly and daring to take the initiative,” say students Viktoria and Sofia with specialisation in intensive care. 

Nurses and rescuers try to save a patient under rubble.
The incident involved an explosion in a building and a subsequent collapse, leaving many people trapped and seriously injured. Photo: Ida Renström.

“The Fire and Rescue Service got a good exercise in different methods of extrication and cooperation with the ambulance service and the Swedish Armed Forces,” says Jonas Glaser, Uppsala Fire and Rescue Service.

Rescuers carry a patient on a stretcher.
Injury markers are moved from the scene to a waiting ambulance. Photo: GoPro from a student. 

The Department of Surgical Sciences at Uppsala University would like to thank the medical platoon of the 13th Electronic Warfare Battalion in Enköping and the Uppsala Fire Department that carried out this successful exercise with great commitment and knowledge. 

“We hope that this can become a recurring exercise for all students to strengthen disaster medical education,” says Oskar Sandqvist, training nurse at the 13th Electronic Warfare Battalion in Enköping. 

Johan Lingsarve and Ida Renström