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Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Involved in Initiative to Improve Bioterrorism Preparedness in Health Care Institutions Nationwide

Apr. 2, 2004, 1:22 PM

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Involved in Initiative to Improve Bioterrorism Preparedness in Health Care Institutions Nationwide

Vaccines, drugs, diagnostic devices and medical surveillance are all crucial tools in the fight against bioterrorism and emerging infectious disease, but experts say they are not enough, and Congress has asked a group of national experts in the field, which includes the National Center for Emergency Preparedness (NCEP), housed at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, to target new ways to increase the level of personnel preparedness.

The NCEP will work with a newly formed group called the Health Care Incentivization Working Group (HCIWG), in collaboration with the Association of Academic Health Centers to tackle the issue. "We are interested in understanding what needs to be done and how to prepare our people and institutions," said Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., dean of the Vanderbilt School of Nursing and director of the International Nursing Coalition for Mass Casualty Education (INCMCE). "Hospitals and other institutions need to participate in planning and exercise activities so that their people and the local community as a whole understand and can carry out those plans, and have an opportunity to improve how we do things," she added.

The team of collaborators on HCIWG project said until now, the majority of work to support preparedness of our nation has been a focused primarily on material solutions like protective gear, sensors, and information analysis, and much less emphasis has been placed on training the people in our health care institutions who will have to use this equipment and act on the results.

Conway-Welch is working closely on the project with Michael Hopmeier, of the HCIWG, who said nothing is more important than ensuring that we have well-trained health care workers across the nation to respond to a mass casualty situation. "Our goal is to identify opportunities to assist our health care service industry in preparing for disasters and response to Homeland Security issues. We plan to work with Academic Health Centers and public health systems to defray the costs for preparedness, training and exercises," Hopmeier said. "It is very expensive to train personnel to respond to disasters, give them time to study and perform exercises, prepare plans, and maintain equipment. Incentives are needed to help these institutions, just like the manufacturers, in defraying these very costly efforts," he added. Conway-Welch agrees. "Identifying financial incentives for our institutions and Academic Health Centers is critically important. These Centers represent an incredibly flexible and robust resource in every state," she said.

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