March 30, 2001

School of Nursing joining war against bioterrorism

Featured Image

From left, Jennifer Hamilton, a social worker with the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital Child Development Center accepts a check for $50,750 from country artist Martina McBride and Phran Galante, chair of the Music City Tennis Invitational Tournament. The check represents the amount raised during last year’s tournament. This year’s tournament will be May 5 and 6 at the Vanderbilt Tennis Center. (photo by Dana Johnson)

School of Nursing joining war against bioterrorism

A meeting of national nursing leaders at Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing was a “monumental step” in an effort to develop a collaborative nursing group to include bioterrorism training and education in nursing curricula.

Although nurses have not traditionally been on the front lines of disaster response, especially since most state and local government agencies have created emergency management programs targeting such events, it is time to put them on the team and move them to the forefront.

“Our goal is to influence the 1,200 nursing curricula around the country,” said Captain Veronica G. Stephens, MSN, ANP-C, senior program management officer and consultant with the Office of Emergency Preparedness.

“There are approximately 2.4 million nurses in this country. We must reach out to them at their various educational levels in multiple ways. Nurses are the largest number of health care providers and yet we are not included in these types of discussions.

“We are coming to the table. We are developing a plan. This is the first time this has ever been done,” she said.

Stephens was one of 25 attendees invited to the national meeting held at VUSN last week at the request of the Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Vanderbilt has been in discussions with federal agencies for more than 18 months to determine the best method to tackle this issue.

Linda Norman, senior associate dean of academics, traveled to Ireland in February to meet with experts at the University of Ulster School of Nursing about a program in advanced disaster response preparedness.

“Right now we are examining how to get the information to people without crowding the curriculum,” Norman said. “We need to understand how we would teach this and what we need to teach. That is the reason for this dialogue. This is the first of many discussions.”

Colleen Conway-Welch, dean of the School of Nursing said: “We see this as not only a national opportunity, but one that expands to the international community. We want to make sure we are inclusive and that everyone has a seat at the table. The need for this discussion as well as the need for nursing curriculum change is critical.”

Although discussions are in initial stages, plans are to create six regional centers of excellence with Vanderbilt as the hub. These sites will focus on mass casualty event education for nurses on all levels including continuing education programs and even citizen information.

Stephens said what is exciting is that not only are nursing schools, nursing leaders and emergency agencies interested, but the credentialing and licensing arms of nursing have entered the fray.

“This will become a requirement that will need to be incorporated into all certification and the state board exam,” Stephens said. “These folks are here with us now and typically they come into the scene later. It has generated real interest.”

By the fall of 2002, Vanderbilt hopes to be one of several locations offering mass casualty event courses focused on nursing and in partnership with the School of Medicine.