Hope in the face of disaster

Published September 1, 2019

Nurses are crucial in disaster and emergency response

situations – and, thanks to a national organization, nurses, students and individuals from a variety of fields have a unique opportunity to gain specialized training in disaster and emergency preparedness.

The Consortium for Humanitarian Service and Education (CHSE) is an all-volunteer non-profit organization that provides disaster and emergency preparedness training in interdisciplinary simulated drills called Hope exercises.

“The Hope exercises are a way to bring students from different disciplines, different colleges and universities to work together to either respond to a simulated disaster response or humanitarian response,” explains Joann Sands, DNP, ANP-BC, UB SON clinical assistant professor and CHSE member.

Participants work to extricate and stabilize a victim found under a trailer.

New York Hope: Participants work to extricate and stabilize a victim found under a trailer.

Hope takes place once a year in Florida, Missouri and New York, each with a different scenario. The various scenarios include humanitarian responses, natural disasters, and this year in Florida for the first time, an epidemiological event. Sands invites SON students to participate in these trainings.

“It is really important for nurses to be involved because nurses are the largest number of health care providers,” says Sands. “It is also inevitable that they’re probably going to be taking care of a victim of disaster at some point.”

Participants often become inspired after a Hope exercise; they see and experience things that they would not have exposure to in nursing school. The experience can be life changing and push participants out of their comfort zones, which helps them realize that they are capable of so much more than they thought before.

“Many students get emotionally invested when they participate in the exercises. It’s kind of what we hope for. Working in a mass casualty or disaster event is very stressful. We call it ‘suspending disbelief,’ where the participants are immersed in the disaster event or humanitarian response to keep the scenario as a realistic as possible,” explains Sands.

Lauren Czolgosz, BS '19, with a patient at the internally displaced persons camp.

Missouri Hope: Lauren Czolgosz, BS '19, with a patient at the internally displaced persons camp.

Lauren Czolgosz, BS ’19 and 2018 participant, says, “Missouri Hope was one of the most terrifying, educational and fun experiences of my nursing career. It is a phenomenal experience that teaches you so much about all aspects of disaster response, not only nursing.”

“I’m so happy I went. I met so many different people from emergency management and we were put into situations that were as lifelike as possible,” says Cari Gavin, ABS ’19 and Florida Hope 2019 participant. “The actors had bones sticking out of them, abrasions on their faces, and we had to treat these people. We had to think and work together as a team.”

Participants on a school bus stopped by military members.

Atlantic Hope: Participants traveling through the north-south border are questioned by military.

Sands would eventually like to offer elective classes for disaster and emergency management for all disciplines at UB. Currently, she is working toward a master's degree in disaster preparedness emergency management through Arkansas State University and is expected to graduate in 2020.

“All the exercises are really life changing, and all of the students have had positive experiences. I would encourage anybody that is interested to just let me know or sign up.”

To sign up for Hope or for more information, email Joann Sands at jsnyder2@buffalo.edu.

- ANNA KATE BEIGEL