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Mother Nature’s unpredictable character can wreak havoc on a community if it is not prepared to handle a disaster.

Students from UT’s College of Nursing recently participated in a disaster preparedness drill conducted by the Appalachia Community Health and Disaster Readiness Project and other community partners in rural Clay County, Kentucky.

The exercise was developed over the last several months and involved partners from Red Bird Mission, Manchester Memorial Hospital, UT’s Law Enforcement Innovation Center, and a variety of emergency and safety personnel from Southeastern Kentucky.

Polly McArthur, clinical assistant professor at UT, said the college recognizes that it’s important for nursing students to understand how they might be needed in the wake of a disaster.

“In the spirit of experiential learning, the students who participated in the drill then came back into the classroom to share with their peers what they learned about nursing’s responsibilities in disaster management,” she said. “Reflecting on their experience, students discussed the benefits of knowing what happens in the field when victims are triaged and transported to the hospital as well as the importance of patient-centered care.”

This drill allowed Clay County to test response efforts and improve preparedness in an area where efforts can be stymied by lack of communication and rural isolation.

“This unique experience offered nursing students an opportunity to be critical collaborators in developing education and testing an emergency management model for an isolated, rural community vulnerable to flooding disasters.” said McArthur. “They made clear connections between participation in simulated disaster and understanding future roles in acute care as well as community-based settings such as clinics, schools, and industries.”

The interprofessional Appalachia Community Health and Disaster Readiness Project aims to strengthen community wellness and enhance emergency preparedness and readiness through a process of community engagement and knowledge sharing with UT’s Colleges of Nursing, Architecture, and Engineering, as well as the Law Enforcement Innovation Center.

The Appalachia Community Health & Disaster Readiness project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under UD7HP26205 and Nurse Education, Practice, Quality, and Retention Inter-professional Collaborative Practice grant. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,