Students Gain Practical Experience During “Dr. Told Weekend”

Written by Gina Marzulla

The annual training exercise referred to as “Dr. Told Weekend” by the residents of Baggs, Wyoming took place the weekend of June 4th. Twenty-seven RVU students in the Rural and Wilderness Medicine Track participated in realistic simulations to gain practical experiences in triage and emergency medicine. Thomas N. Told, DO, FACOFP-dist., Acting Associate Dean, who served for many years as a physician for the Little Snake River Valley (LSRV) community prior to his tenure at RVU, was in attendance for the weekend. He was joined by Andy Nigh, MD, FACS, and David Ross, DO, FACEP, Directors of the Rural and Wilderness Medical Track on the Southern Utah and Colorado campuses respectively, as well as emergency medical personnel from Grand Junction, LSRV EMS, and Baggs Fire and Rescue.

During the first scenario—a two-vehicle rollover that crashed into a family of picnickers—students were dispatched to the scene and had to figure out how to implement an Incident Command System, triage and treat the patients, and decide how they would transport these patients to area hospitals. The students were divided into groups of responders, both fire and EMS. Although the students had some background in medical treatment, few had experience with fire. The newly appointed student firefighters were taught some fundamentals of fire and rescue by Assistant Chief Jared Wille and his crew. The students had multiple patients to triage, extricate, and eventually treat. The scene had the added chaos of actors from the community that intervened and distracted the students while they attempted to provide care to the injured patients.

In between scenarios, the students completed various skill stations. These stations included reading heart rhythm strips, the placement of chest tubes, airway management, and tying sutures.

The second scenario was a meth lab explosion at a trailer park where students entered a smoke-filled home and performed a search and rescue operation. Students had to assess environmental hazards and other potential threats, including a disgruntled landlord firing a gun into the air. Students had to work in confined spaces and deal with distractions, all while triaging patients.

After a full day of mass casualty scenarios, Saturday evening had students shrugging off their stethoscopes and borrowed fire gear, and donning Roaring 20s-themed attire to attend the Baggs Ball, an annual fundraiser. Although the ball wasn’t a normal part of the scenarios for students, it did teach a lesson on what rural communities must do to maintain services. RVU purchased six tables and students, faculty, and guests joined the community for a night of fun.

The third and final scenario on Sunday morning was a shooting at an elementary school. This simulation, while emotionally challenging, was a valuable experience for students. Students entered the school through a haze of smoke and blaring fire alarms, while also dealing with the strobe effect from the alarms. It was difficult for students to see and hear while searching the building for injured patients and potential hazards. The shooter was also injured and lying handcuffed near the treatment area, leading students to confront their feelings about providing treatment to the shooter.

The weekend in Baggs provided students with a real sense of community. Families participated as victims and as actors, creating as many distractions as possible in an effort to provide realistic training scenarios. Students not only experienced the community aspect of being a rural doctor but also being a physician-as-first-responder at the scene of an accident.

Everyone worked hard to give the students an unforgettable experience and a real taste of what it is like to serve as a rural physician with limited resources.

This article was originally featured in RVU’s Vista View Newsletter. To view the full issue, visit

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