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Nurses may not have adequate instruction on how to respond to a catastrophe

Events that are less likely to occur, but have greater impact when they do, usually receive fewer training hours.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

On average, American colleges and universities with nursing programs offer about one hour of instruction in handling catastrophic situations such as nuclear events, pandemics, or water contamination crises, according to two recent studies coauthored by a nursing professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Events that are less likely to occur, but have greater impact when they do, usually receive fewer training hours, according to Roberta Lavin, executive associate dean and professor in UT's College of Nursing.


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The studies' results come from two surveys that were sent to all colleges and universities that offer nursing programs in the U.S.

They revealed that most students said they were not getting enough instruction in emergency response, while professors and lecturers said they were not prepared to teach how to offer care during and after catastrophic situations.

This is problematic due to the fact that the impact of emergencies typically extends beyond the emergency itself. The aftermath can include such considerations as when to evacuate a town, or how to carry out care for chronic, often life-lasting consequences that can result from such situations.

One study examined the management of Zika fever and water contamination crises and was focused on nurses' preparedness to attend to pregnant women and children, two populations that are often overlooked in emergency plans.

In addition to nursing schools, that same study also assessed the preparedness of Master of Public Health programs, medical schools, and Doctor of Osteopathy programs in America. All accreditation standards require this type of preparation, but there isn't enough emphasis on it, the findings showed.

Lavin and her coauthors now are working to offer resources to help close that knowledge gap. One of the actions they are taking is to design educational modules for instructors to use in their classes. The units are licensed under Creative Commons and can be downloaded free of charge; users can adjust the courses to meet the needs of their communities.


A new "buddy system" of nursing education -- in which two students work together as one nurse to share ideas, set priorities and make clinical decisions for patient care in the "real world" of nursing -- is effective, according to a study by Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing in Dallas.

Findings about the "Two Heads Are Better than One" nurse education strategy -- dubbed 2HeadsR>1 for short and piloted by Louise Herrington School of Nursing in 2017 -- are published in the Journal of Nursing Education.

Twitter: @JELagasse

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