SIM Wars Victory is in the Banana Bags

Members of the Banana Bags, the 2023 SIM Wars champions, pose with ENA Chief Growth Officer Terrence Sykes and a new prize added to the competition this year, a championship belt. Pictured from left: Kayla Holman, MSN-ED, RN, CEN; Jessica Williams, ADN, RN, CCRN; Sykes; Cassandra Woore, MSN, RN, CEN; and Donna Andrews, APRN.

The emergency department may be a set and the patient an actor, but the pressure of the SIM Wars at Emergency Nursing 2023 was real.

And so was the satisfaction of beating out 17 other teams to claim the bragging rights to be named this year’s simulation champions, an honor achieved by the Banana Bags. The foursome of Kayla Holman, MSN-ED, RN, CEN; Donna Andrews, APRN; Cassandra Woore, MSN, RN, CEN; and Jessica Williams, ADN, RN, CCRN, also won the rights to a traveling trophy and championship belt for the next 12 months. Both prizes will have the Banana Bags name engraved on them.

The Banana Bags earned their title on Sept. 23, in the Experience Hall in San Diego with just a half-point edge over the unnamed runner-up with their quick thinking, clinical management and communication while responding to a diabetic ketoacidosis scenario.

“We did not know the diagnosis at first. We had to determine that,” explained Williams.

SIM Wars participants receive a short briefing before their time on stage but have no prior knowledge of the emergency scenario they’ll be asked to solve. They must be prepared for anything.

A crew of experienced clinicians grades each team on its performance. The evaluation is split between technical skills assessments and human factors criteria.

Over the course of what Andrews described as a “nerve-wracking” 10 minutes, the case was solved, and the patient was on the road to recovery.

“We saved his life,” Woore said. “We came in and saw that he was pretty unstable. We acted quickly and efficiently as a team to help stabilize him.”

Not a small feat for a team that had worked together just once before — a day earlier in the first round of competition. While some of the team members had worked together previously, each works at a different hospital now, and some met for the first time at the conference.

Holman hails from Loma, Colorado; Andrews from Coeur D’Alene, Idaho; Woore from Rialto, California; and Williams from San Jose, California.

Their lack of familiarity with one another ended up a benefit to their performance.

“We were communicating more because we don’t work together, so we don’t know how she works or how she works, and we came together as a team,” Woore said.

They couldn’t have done it without each member bringing a strong foundation of emergency nursing knowledge to the simulation.

“We ran our ABCs, we did our TNCC,” Williams said, referring to prioritizing the airway, breathing and circulation, as well as the ENA Trauma Nursing Core Course. “If you’re experienced and knowledgeable, it doesn’t matter if you know your co-workers.”

The Banana Bags, named after the bags often used to give patients multivitamins intravenously, brought their collective expertise to the Experience Hall as one of three teams to advance to the final round on Saturday after winning over judges in the preliminaries a day earlier. The Alaskan Hypothermic Heroines and Tri Health Trauma Train also were finalists.

Holman, Andrews, Woore and Williams already intend to defend their title at Emergency Nursing 2024, and they encourage anyone else who will be in Las Vegas next September to compete as well.

“This was very fun,” Holman said. “And we did a hot debrief right after and talked about it, so they made it educational for us too.”