Polk State, Lakeland Regional Health partner for mass casualty incident training

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

Polk State College and Lakeland Regional Health partnered to produce the largest mass casualty incident scenario either organization has ever coordinated.

The results? Critical hands-on experience and interdisciplinary training for more than 200 individuals, including resident doctors in Lakeland Regional Health’s Emergency Medicine Residency Program, students in Polk State’s Emergency Medical Services and Radiography programs, and high schoolers from Polk County Public Schools medical academies.

The scenario took place on April 24 at the Polk State Center for Public Safety. The training simulated a mass shooting at Joker Marchant Stadium – a location selected due to its proximity to Lakeland Regional Health. Participants not only responded to “Joker Marchant” where they triaged the injured; they also walked through the process of transporting victims, navigating the lobby of the “emergency room,” and subsequent patient care in the ER, including an X-ray lab managed by Polk State Radiography students.

“We simulated a mass shooting scenario in which we had anywhere from 40 to 60 victims. The goal of this exercise was to get each side (doctors and first responders) familiar with how the other side treats these types of events on this grand of a scale,” explained Dr. Matthew Carman, Associate Program Director of Lakeland Regional Health’s Emergency Medicine Residency Program and Medical Director for Polk State’s Emergency Medical Services Program. “It’s a very rare opportunity that EMS gets to see how we handle things on the hospital side and vice versa. This training is very valuable for our residents and Polk State’s students alike.”

George Gibson, a paramedic student in the Polk State EMS Program who works for Polk County Fire Rescue, was a natural leader throughout the scenario with his peers which included training emergency medical responders, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics.

He used his voice to project a sense of calm over an otherwise chaotic scene, in which he called for victims who were able to walk to follow his voice. This helped him triage patients more quickly. Those who could walk were organized into green and yellow sections for care and transport, if needed, following those who were more critically injured and triaged into a red section.

“This kind of training is important so that we can experience it before we get with a real person in a real incident,” Gibson said. “It’s going to make you more confident with your work and make those who we service not feel like this is some rookie. The ultimate goal is not just to learn but to be better at [serving] our people.”


Dr. Katie DiVincenzo, a first-year resident at Lakeland Regional Health from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, agreed that this level of training builds confidence.

“This experience is beneficial because it gives us the opportunity to practice if this scenario were to ever come to fruition,” she said. “It gives us confidence if we were to be a part of this scenario in the future [knowing] which patients need to be evaluated sooner [and] which imaging we need to order and prioritize.”

Dr. Carman and Polk State EMS Director Frank Dunn spearheaded the creation of the training opportunity. Polk State Dean of Health Sciences Beth Luckett called the April event a success and is already evaluating ways to expand this training opportunity.

“We’ve been fortunate to have been partnered with Lakeland Regional Health for many years,” Luckett said. “Frank Dunn, Polk State’s EMS Program Director, and Dr. Carman with Lakeland Regional began the discussion of bringing together a large-level simulation event. We have a great framework. The facilities are excellent.”

“If we move this to our future Haines City-Davenport Campus…, we can expand the practice with Radiography, Sonography, and Respiratory Care as they are also in the emergency room. We will have the Cardiovascular Technology Program involved, and even as we expand the scenario of the patients from trauma, our Occupational Therapy Assistant and Physical Therapist Assistant programs can complete the simulation.”

The Polk State Haines City-Davenport Campus is estimated to open in 2025, pending funding, and will house the majority of the College’s Health Sciences programs. It will also include Central Florida’s first public higher education interdisciplinary simulation hospital.

Dr. Carman echoed Luckett’s sentiments about partnership and expansion.

“Both institutions are staples of the community. Polk State has multiple campuses. Lakeland Regional is the level-two trauma center in Polk County,” he said. “We have a great framework to expand and bring in students from all over – X-ray, nurses, respiratory therapists. I look forward to this being a bigger and bigger event every year.”

“It’s important that both institutions work together because they are both serving a common purpose, which is the residents of Polk County.”