Skip to main content
San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Fire Emergency Teaches Vocational Nursing Students How to Act Under Pressure

December 5, 2023

It was 8am the morning of Thursday, June 15, 2023. The volunteer group of students from San Joaquin Valley College’s Vocational Nursing program had arrived at the Hoffman Hospice Home in Bakersfield earlier that morning at 6:30am for their usual clinical rotation of patient care.

The students were going over assessments in a private room when they overheard a nurse practitioner from Hoffman Hospice say she was nearing the end of her shift when she noticed that the building next to them, the Ivy Park building, a partial residence and assisted living facility, had four fire trucks parked outside. She could not see smoke, but she headed over there to see what kind of help they needed. The Ivy Park staff said they were in an active fire code and needed to immediately evacuate all the patients from the building.

“Putting students into a real-life emergency taught them things they would never have learned in a classroom,” says Theresa Mar, the SJVC team lead for the student group that day. “It’s one thing to learn something in a lab and very different to be in a real-life fire code.” There were nurses employed there who had practiced for years and never experienced a fire code. It was a real-life test for the students to know how much they retained from their classes and how quickly they could think under pressure. “That kind of experience is something you can’t compare to anything else.”

Theresa immediately asked what the students could do to help. The nurse practitioner said they needed all kinds of supplies – oxygen tanks, face masks, nasal cannulas (tubing that attaches to the nose to receive oxygen) to assist patients during the evacuation. Theresa’s next thought was to get permission from the SJVC clinical instructor for Hoffman Hospice to let the students assist in the evacuation, which she quickly got. Then she instructed the other three students with her – Claire Fuller, Cassandra de la Cruz, and Sierrah Fairgood – to follow the nurse practitioner to the fire at Ivy Park to lose no time in removing the patients from their rooms.

The decision was made to transfer all patients (and their pets) from the burning building to another building on the other side of the parking lot also owned by Ivy Park.  With permission, the SJVC students took whatever equipment they needed across the parking lot to assist in the evacuation. Many others at Hoffman Hospice came to their aid, stuffing their pockets with tubing, hoisting water bottles on their shoulders, and carrying tents, chairs and oxygen tanks across the parking lot. So many people assisted they made the transfer in one trip. With all the help the process only took about 45 minutes.  Once everyone was safe in the other building, the volunteers met in front of the fire trucks to double check that everyone was accounted for.

In the end, about 150 patients were evacuated safely with no casualties, including bed-bound patients, patients with walkers, and many pets who lived in the facility.  One determined SJVC student was scratched up quite a bit while getting a pet cat out from under a patient’s bed.

“Our instructors did an amazing job preparing us for a situation just like the one we were in; like how to think critically and to know what actions to take first,” Theresa added. Though the SJVC students were only half way through their program at the time, they put to use what knowledge they had in the crisis; for example, knowing the symptoms when a patient is overheated or how to tell if a patient was about to fall to the floor.

When these students complete their program, they can add to their accomplishments the added confidence of knowing how to react in a real-life emergency.

Request Information

All fields using an asterik (*) are required.

Step 1 of 2

* Required Field