FORT DRUM, New York - Healthcare professionals working in an outpatient clinic normally don't expect to experience an emergency situation involving one of their patients. However, that doesn't mean it can't happen, and being prepared to respond is vital to ensuring patient safety. That's why staff from the Fort Drum Obstetrics and Gynecology clinic in Watertown, New York recently conducted a mock drill to help prepare themselves to be ready to react to a worst-case scenario.

On the morning of June 14, the OB/GYN staff knew they were going to participate in a training exercise, but they had no idea what situation they were going to face. Even though the clinic was closed to patient care that day, the staff operated like it was business as usual. That's when Elizabeth Keen, a library technician from the Fort Drum Medical Activity, walked into the OB/GYN waiting room at the Samaritan Medical Offices.

Keen was playing the role of a pregnant 19-year-old, complete with a pregnant belly and her role-playing sister in tow. Keen's character had been diagnosed with preeclampsia, a condition that only occurs during pregnancy and can cause high blood pressure and gestational hypertension.

"I haven't been feeling well, so I decided to come into my appointment early," Keen told the medical support assistant at the front desk. She then took a seat in the waiting room. Shortly after, she stood up, said she felt dizzy and pretended to pass out on the floor while hitting her head on the way down.

"Patient down," yelled the MSA at the front desk, and it wasn't long before nurses and medical staff flooded into the waiting room to assess their patient.

The first nurse to reach Keen was Ashlee Dority, a triage registered nurse with the clinic. "I was kind of caught off guard going in there and not knowing that she was on the floor," she said.

However, it wasn't long before the medical professionals were able to ascertain that their patient was suffering from an eclamptic seizure following her fall. They began to work quickly, checking her blood pressure, placing her in a safe position and simulating the administration of drugs to calm the seizures, all while reassuring her and her sister that everything was going to be okay.

The entire event only lasted a few minutes. However, in that short amount of time, clinic staff were able to stabilize their patient enough for emergency medical personnel to take over.

"The eclamptic seizure mock drill is important training because it allows us to role play uncommonly utilized policies to ensure the staff is prepared in the event they need them," said Dr. Morgan Krump, Fort Drum MEDDAC's chief of health education and training. "Inviting all levels of staff is important because each person plays a key role during an emergency."

For the staff, it was a valuable learning experience where mistakes weren't chastised. Instead, they were used as a tool to develop better habits and more confidence should an emergency really occur.

"I think they learned a lot," said Bonnie Umstead, the OB/GYN clinic's supervisory nurse manager. "Going through drills like this makes them more prepared and more aware of the situation. It wasn't meant to be a situation where we point fingers and say 'you did this wrong;' it was purely learning for every level. Everybody was being watched to see how they performed, and I'm proud of them."

This method of training is different from the readiness training MEDDAC staff has traditionally done in the past. Previously, most nurse and medical staff training occurred at the Guthrie Ambulatory Health Care Clinic on Fort Drum, where medical professionals from all different disciplines would come together for a day of training.

"(It) makes it difficult to get my staff there and a lot of times there's topics that are being covered that doesn't pertain to us," Umstead said of previous training events. "It's better to have more subject-specific training and doing it this way we can cover things that are typically more subject to our clinic and what we do on a daily basis."

This new training model is now the way forward for Fort Drum MEDDAC. Now, each clinic and department will get specialized training tailored to their specific needs and expertise.

"The value in providing specialized training in each department is that it allows us to conduct a needs assessment specific to that clinical area," Krump said. "We can then utilize that information to formulate a series of objectives and training that focuses on identified gaps. Furthermore, there is the benefit of providing situational training, which allows for greater staff participation and the ability to use the clinic's resources so training is relevant to what they experience day to day."

For the OB/GYN staff, it's all about ensuring the safety of the patients seeking care at the clinic. They understand the importance of maintaining and building upon their medical proficiencies to ensure they can provide the best and safest care to their patients.

"It's vital because we never know what could happen and our objective is patient safety; safe mom - safe baby, at all times," Umstead added.