Emergency Preparedness Curriculum in Nursing Schools in the United States

By Weiner, Elizabeth; Irwin, Margaret et al. | Nursing Education Perspectives, November-December 2005 | Go to article overview

Emergency Preparedness Curriculum in Nursing Schools in the United States


Weiner, Elizabeth, Irwin, Margaret, Trangenstein, Patricia, Gordon, Jeffry, Nursing Education Perspectives


ABSTRACT With concern about bioterrorism and inadequacies in responding to mass casualty events, health care professionals have been placed in the category of first responders. The International Nursing Coalition for Mass Casualty Education (INCMCE) was established to plan strategically to address the educational needs of the nation's nurses. This study sought to determine the types and levels of disaster preparedness curricula being delivered or in development in nursing programs at all levels. INCMCE surveyed 2,013 deans or directors of nursing schools as to curricula for emergency preparedness prior to September 11, 2001, and during the two following academic years. Initial requests were sent via email and the US postal service. Respondents were invited to answer the online survey so data could be directly entered into a database for purposes of data analysis. Responses were received from 348 schools of nursing. Curriculum plans, followed by competency lists, were selected as most helpful for teaching content in disaster preparedness. The survey results validated the general assumption that nursing programs provide limited curricula in this area. The mean number of hours of disaster preparedness content provided, approximately four hours, did not change significantly over three academic years. The study also showed that 75 percent of respondents thought that nurse faculty were inadequately prepared in the area of disaster management. The study established a baseline for future curricular growth.

Key Words Emergency Planning--Disaster Response--Emergency Preparedness--Nursing Curriculum--Terrorism Response

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FOUNDED IN THE SPRING OF 2001, the INTERNATIONAL NURSING COALITION FOR MASS CASUALTY EDUCATION (INCMCE) brings together organizational representatives of schools of nursing, nursing accrediting bodies, nursing specialty organizations, and governmental agencies to promote mass casualty education for nurses. Coordinated by Vanderbilt University, the organization was created to influence public policy that impacts the welfare of the public through nursing practice, education, research, and regulation for mass casualty incidents. A strategic plan was developed in the priority areas of awareness, response, and research. Two early activities of INCMCE were the development of competencies for all nurses in emergency planning and response and documentation of relevant curricula being taught in schools of nursing in the United States. With organizational representation on INCMCE, the National League for Nursing worked in conjunction with a task force to prepare an online survey on types of courses and content in disaster preparedness provided in US nursing schools. The survey also sought to determine whether nursing curricula in disaster preparedness had changed over a period of three years; the types of curricular resources currently in use; and the types of resources that would help increase the emphasis on disaster preparedness in the nation's nursing schools.

Organizational Efforts INCMCE was established prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the anthrax scares that immediately followed. However, even before 9/11, it was apparent to many that the prospect of bioterrorism placed health care providers in the position of being first responders. It was understood that if symptoms, data patterns, and other irregularities resulting from bioterrorism were not recognized or reported, the public would be in grave danger.

While nursing students have traditionally received community health content related to natural disasters, it was unknown to what extent they have received education related to biological, chemical, nuclear, explosive, radiological, or other hazards. Prior to conducting a needs assessment and curricular review, members of INCMCE examined the work of other organizations.

AMERICAN COLLEGE OF EMERGENCY PHYSICIANS (ACEP) ACEP formed the Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Task Force to evaluate the status of bioterrorism training in the United States, identify barriers to training, and offer recommendations for effective education. …

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Emergency Preparedness Curriculum in Nursing Schools in the United States
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