Las Vegas shooting tests mass casualty training of healthcare professionals




The events that unfolded the night of Oct. 1 in Las Vegas broke an infamous record set only 16 months earlier and put the U.S. in the global spotlight, once again, for being the locale of unfathomable violence.

Before he ended his own life, the perpetrator had taken the lives of 50 attendees at the Route 91 Harvest Festival (the death count now stands at 59) and caused injuries to more than 500 others.

Victims of the Las Vegas shooting were either struck by gunfire or injured in the panic and rush of the 22,000 concert attendees as they ran to safety. The individuals had set out for an evening of music and dancing, but instead had their lives changed forever.

As the public learned about details of the event from the news media, nurses, physicians and other healthcare providers put their mass casualty training to work trying to save lives, as victims arrived via ambulance and private car.

The lone Level One hospital

Hospitals across the region treated patients that night and in the days to come, including the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, the state’s only comprehensive trauma center, received 104 patients, according to a Washington Post article.

“This horrible tragedy demonstrates why it is so important for all levels of hospitals to be prepared for mass casualty events,” said Jennifer Mensik, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, vice president of CE programming for OnCourse Learning, and a faculty member of the Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation DNP program.

“With only one Level One trauma center in Las Vegas and the number of victims, one hospital couldn’t take everyone and so they were triaged and many lower acuity patients had to be sent to neighboring hospitals,” Mensik continued. “Nurses in all areas of the hospital and community settings should review and be familiar with their facilities policies and procedures concerning these types of events.”

At University Medical Center, patients were triaged in the ambulance bays, according to reports. The hospital has an 11-bay trauma center, with three operating bays, as well as regular surgery suites, which they likely used in this situation, according to reports.

The war zone-like injuries and number of patients put healthcare professionals to the test that night. “Those that could be saved, were saved,” Syed Saquib, MD, a UMC surgeon on duty Sunday night, said according to an article. “There were a few that came in with devastating, non-survivable injuries.”

Other hospitals that treated multiple patients included Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center that stated 57 patients remain in the hospital, 29 of whom are still in critical condition, according to an Oct. 4 update on its website. There were 16 fatalities at the hospital. Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center is the closest hospital to the site of the shooting and is a Level 2 trauma center, according to the article.

“No one can say they’ve seen anything like this,” said Sunrise’s Jeffrey Murawsky, MD, on Oct. 2, according to an NPR.org article.

Murawsky said 100 extra physicians were called in to work Sunday night, along with another 100 people including nurses, technicians and support staff, according to the article. “We have a relatively large emergency department,” he said in the article. “We were able to triage within our emergency department.”

St. Rose Dominican’s three area hospitals treated 61 victims — 32 at Siena, 19 at San Martin and 10 at Rose de Lima. Five of those victims remain in critical condition, according to a Las Vegas Sun article. At Southern Hills Hospital & Medical Center’s, 10 patients were treated there and released, according to its website.

Also, three men shot in the attack were treated for non-life-threatening wounds Oct. 2 at a Southern California hospital four hours away after relatives drove them there. The men were treated for gunshot wounds at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange after arriving there separately. Two of the men were treated and released, while the third was admitted, according to an Orange County Register article.

Sonny Melton, RN

The nursing community lost one of its own that night. Henry County Medical Center’s (Paris, Tenn.) Sonny Melton, RN, was shot and killed in the attack while trying to protect his wife, Heather.

“He saved my life,” she said, according to an article. “He grabbed me and started running when I felt him get shot in the back. I want everyone to know what a kind-hearted, loving man he was, but at this point, I can barely breathe.”

Sonny Melton graduated from Union University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Accelerated degree and was president of his BSNA class, according to the university.

As the victims of this tragedy begin to heal and return home, hospitals and their healthcare professionals will need to move on and care for the next patients who come through their doors. But they also will need time to grieve and heal.

“Many times after traumatic events, nurses and healthcare professionals go home without debriefing, thinking that they will be okay in a few days,” Mensik said. “It is important to have scheduled debriefing sessions in the coming days and months that follow that staff can attend if they choose and have counselors, chaplains or other support staff available to them. Remember that symptoms of PTSD can surface up to two years following a traumatic event.”


About the author
Sallie Jimenez

Sallie Jimenez 

Sallie Jimenez, who is Content Manager for Healthcare, develops and edits content for OnCourse Learning’s Nurse.com blog, which covers industry news and trends in the nursing profession and healthcare. She also develops content for the OnCourse Learning/Nurse.com Digital Resource Guides. She has more than 22 years of healthcare journalism, content marketing and editing experience.

5 responses to “Las Vegas shooting tests mass casualty training of healthcare professionals”

  1. Thank you for this caring tribute to hospital staff and those that saved so many people. Yes the healthcare arena is slow at the debriefing and taking care of staff. It is critical these folks are debriefed. As a nurse in the clinic setting I have witnessed first hand the horrorable things a accident can do to a person. Please take care of yourself. Thank you

  2. Im an RN -on Disability and I appreciate hearing about the honorable efforts of my co-workers in the field. But you all do know dont you that this scenario was in great part put on by our “government-the CIA and the FBI? And other biggies that want us all to give up our weapons? The NWO is here and its not pretty.

  3. God Bless all health professionals with their skills and knowledge under the worst of circumstances were able to save so many lifes.I know you were just doing your job but you are the heroes of medicine.Thank you for being with all those who needed you in Vegas.

  4. Sometimes when Emergency Departments are often so busy and we have to do the “annual casualty preparation drills, there can be a bit of grumbling and good natured complaining. But then when you have to deal with mass casualties, you appreciate the emphasis and preparation.
    A former ER nurse. Don’t underestimate the importance of de-briefing and support one another as the days and months go on.

  5. I worked as a trauma nurse in the operating room at the largest trauma center in the country for 17 years. I worked the evening and night shifts on the busy weekends. I don’t recall any debriefing or anyone ever asking me or anyone I worked with about how we felt about being the last person someone ever talks to. I hope the healthcare workers do get help with the emotional toll this traumatic event will have on them. All too often we are left to deal with these emotions on our own.

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