Blog » A Look at Emergency Preparedness

A Look at Emergency Preparedness

Created Sep 23 2014, 08:00 PM by Lippincott Solutions
  • CDC
  • health epidemic
  • Center for Disease Control
  • disasters
  • American Nurses Association
  • hospital preparedness
  • nursing
  • ANA

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
How nurses can get ready for the next healthcare crisis.

When a health epidemic strikes, will your hospital be ready? Bioterrorism, chemical emergencies, accidents with mass casualties, viral outbreaks, even natural disasters; there are many crises to prepare for.

To help hospitals plan for dealing with catastrophes, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has put together a number of resources including an entire page of emergency preparedness and response resources.

Additionally, the American Nurses Association (ANA) prepared a document, “Adapting standards of care under extreme conditions: Guidance for professionals during disasters, pandemics, and other extreme emergencies”, to guide facilities.

As part of hospital preparedness, the document states, nurses should be able to do the following:

  • Describe your expected role in emergency response in the specific practice setting as a part of the institution or community response.
  • Respond to an emergency event within the incident or emergency management system of the practice, institution and community.
  • Recognize an illness, injury, or outbreak as potentially resulting from exposure to a biologic, chemical or radiologic agent possibly associated with a terrorist event.
    • Recognize uncommon presentations of common diseases and distinguish these from common presentations of uncommon diseases that may be related to a terrorist event or emerging infectious disease.
    • Recognize emerging patterns or clusters of unusual presentations.
  • Institute appropriate steps to limit spread, including infection control measures, decontamination techniques and use of appropriate personal protective equipment.
  • Report identified cases or events to the public health system to facilitate surveillance and investigation using the established institutional or local communication protocol.
  • Initiate patient care within your professional scope of practice and arrange for prompt referral appropriate to the identified condition(s).
  • Use reliable information sources for current referral and management guidelines.
  • Provide reliable information to others (institutional administration, patients and families) as relevant to the specific practice site and emergency response protocol.
  • Communicate risks and actions taken clearly and accurately to patients and concerned others.
  • Identify and manage the expected stress/anxiety associated with emergency events, making referrals for mental health services if needed.
  • Participate in post-event feedback and assessment of response with the local public health system and take needed steps to improve future response.

No response to an extreme circumstance is complete until the participants have moved to the recovery phase, which includes including reestablishing the medical and public health infrastructure disrupted by the disaster. This does not necessarily require fully returning to the pre-emergency status quo, but simply achieving a level of staffing and supplies that justifies returning to an ordinary level of care for most, if not all, patients, and re-directing those not being served locally to a suitable alternate facility. The recovery phase must also include collaboration across the community and consistent messages to the public about where and when to seek care.

Extreme conditions can arise with or without warning, due to weather, geology, utility failure, industrial explosion, accidents, or deliberate human action. The response of the entire health workforce may make the difference in the degree of suffering in in the community, and the rate of recovery

Being ready to adapt and provide essential care under extreme conditions is the healthcare team's professional responsibility. Don't wait to consider possible scenarios in advance, formulate plans, and practice emergency drills.

Is your health care facility well-versed in the stages of the emergency preparedness routine? As a nurse, do you know your role?