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Health care response tested during Great Utah ShakeOut

Published: Tuesday, April 17 2012 6:44 p.m. MDT

Mock pregnant patient Whitney Shaver, right, delivered a baby with help from nurses Shantel White and Jocelyn Jackman at Holladay Healthcare Center during The Great Utah ShakeOut in Salt Lake County Tuesday, April 17, 2012. This is the largest earthquake drill ever conducted in Utah history.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Related articles: The Deseret News has been running a series on earthquake preparation in conjunction with the Great Utah ShakeOut drill.

HOLLADAY — This was the scenario: St. Mark's Hospital had sustained damage from an earthquake. Four "patients" were diverted to Holladay Healthcare Center for care.

Among them was a 14-year-old girl, "Betty Smith," who was in the throes of labor. Another was a patient who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Yet another needed stitches for a head wound. Still another had injured a hip.

They were all under the care of Jocelyn Jackman, a newborn intensive care nurse, who had been pulled away from her regular duties at St. Mark's Hospital to accompany the patients to the Holladay skilled nursing facility in a nursing home van.

The "patient transfer" was part of The Great Utah ShakeOut, the largest earthquake drill in state history. Some 930,000 Utahns took part in the exercise, which commenced with a mock earthquake at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday. 

When the nursing home van arrived at the care center, members of the nursing staff and the facility's medical director, Dr. C. Steven Fehlauer, performed triage in the lobby.

"Betty" was moved to a private room where Jackman and Shantel White, a registered nurse who works at Holladay Healthcare, prepared for the birth. Fortunately, White has also worked as a labor and delivery nurse. Delivering babies, of course, is not a common occurrence at a nursing home, but White's training kicked in as she and Jackman coached the teenager, who was not aware that she was pregnant, through a difficult birth. The baby boy had an umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and he was born blue.

Jackman massaged the newborn (a plastic doll that Betty had carried in her purse until the drill got under way) until he cried. 

While both nurses are experienced in delivering babies and their care after birth, the experience was largely an exercise in improvisation. While White was familiar with the available equipment, supplies and staff at the nursing home, Jackman was thrown into a new environment.

"It was really interesting. I'm glad I have my training to fall back on and I have my experience to fall back on. And I had a really good nurse to work with," Jackman said of White.

White said throughout the drill, she was taking a mental inventory of what equipment could be used in the event of such an emergency, whether it was the crash cart or something that could be used to tie off the umbilical cord. 

For purposes of the drill, Jackman and White were on their own to deliver baby "Slate." Fehlauer popped in afterward to offer assistance and check on the condition of mother and child. "Did you deliver the placenta?" he queried.

"That's the doctor's job," White joked.

The birth was something of a dress rehearsal for "Betty Smith," who in real life is Whitney Shaver, a nursing student at Westminster College. She's also 25 weeks pregnant.

"It was fun to see how everyone reacts in a traumatic situation," she said.

While neither employees of the nursing home nor the hospital know what any given day will bring, Len Southwick, administrator of Holladay Healthcare Center, said the training was a help to both.

"This was good. There has not been a lot of coordination between the hospitals and nursing homes in this arena before," Southwick said.

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