Enhancing disaster preparedness of specialty nurses on a national scale

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Mitchell, Marion L
McKinnon, Loretta
Aitken, Leanne M
Weber, Sarah
Birgan, Sean
Sykes, Sharon
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Purpose – The number of disasters has increased by 30 per cent worldwide in the past 30 years. Nurses constitute the largest clinical group within a hospital and their ability to respond to disasters is crucial to the provision of quality patient care. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate a four-year disaster preparedness partnership between two tertiary hospitals from the perspective of executive staff, senior clinical managers and specialist nurses. The national disaster response centre was situated in one hospital and the other hospital was located 3,500 km away.

Design/methodology/approach – The intervention involved selected nurses working at the partner hospital to enable familiarisation with policies, procedures and layout in the event of a request for back-up in the event of a national disaster. A mixed-methods design was used to elicit the strengths and limitations of the partnership. Surveys, in-depth interviews and focus groups were used.

Findings – In total, 67 participants provided evaluations including ten executive staff, 17 clinical management nurses and 38 nurses from the disaster response team. Improvements in some aspects of communication were recommended. The successful recruitment of highly skilled and committed nurses was a strength. A disaster exercise resulted in 79 per cent of nurses, able and willing to go immediately to the partner hospital for up to 14 days.

Research limitations/implications – During the four year partnership, no actual disaster occurred that required support. This limited the ability to fully trial the partnership in an authentic manner. The disaster exercise, although helpful in trialling the processes and assessing nurse availability, it has some limitations.

Originality/value – This innovative partnership successfully prepared specialist nurses from geographically distant hospitals for a disaster response. This together with a willingness to be deployed enhanced Australia’s capacity in the event of a disaster.

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Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal

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© 2016 Emerald. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.

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Acute care

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