Students spend two hours in Sentinel Mine

PHILIPPI, W.Va. – A group of senior nursing students from Alderson Broaddus University travelled underground to the Sentinel Mine in Barbour County. The trip was part of a Foundations of Community as Client class exercise.

“This is a great example of how a liberal arts education comes alive outside the classroom,” says Valerie Minor MSN, RN, associate professor of nursing. “Students are able to utilize what is taught in the classroom and apply it to a real life setting.”

The students, who are all seniors, are in the leadership phase of the nursing program and used the trip to observe the formation of relationships between professionals of two very different disciplines. Through discussion they were able to formulate ideas about how they can come together to promote community health.

Students gained exposure to the culture of coal mining, saw the process firsthand and increased their understanding of mine related injuries by watching miners work and use equipment they have never seen before.

Students participated in a 30 minute safety training before entering the mine. This included training on the activation and use of both short and long term oxygen supplies in case of an emergency. They then suited up with protective and reflective gear including coveralls, steel reinforced shoes, hardhats with lights, heavy gloves and goggles. They were able to watch individual radio frequencies registered so that their exact location could be monitored.

The group entered an elevator area through an air lock room and took the elevator over 500 feet below ground into the mine. They travelled for two hours on a mantrip toward Galloway under the Rt. 76 area. They watched the miners work and witnessed a continuous miner work and have its drill bits changed due to wear and tear; watched roof bolts be installed; saw fool’s gold (pyrite) and were given samples by a miner using a hand held pick; watched the shuttle bring coal to the belt where it was rinsed and made ready to be taken above ground; and visited the preparation plant and received an orientation to the process used when coal first arrives above ground to being loaded in rail cars and shipped away.

The field trip was a learning experience so students could “connect the dots” between what they learned in the classroom and what exists in the “real world.”

The nursing department also has plans to take students to visit windmills and recently did a distance tour of Marcellus Shale drilling operations.