Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Disaster Preparedness Training for Healthcare Workers?

Bob Baylor of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College has started a nice blog, Losantiville, with homeland security as one of its emphases. (Welcome to the blogosphere, Bob!)

Today he argues, persuasively to my mind, that healthcare workers should receive basic training in the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command System (ICS), as they may have to interact with these response structures in the event of a major disaster:

Healthcare workers, as opposed to first-responders, often do not receive training in ICS or NIMS. Many would be at a loss if suddenly assigned to a medical strike team or may even wonder why their skills would be needed.
Bob advocates a minimum of training, to establish familiarity with the organizational constructs involved:
The healthcare worker who has had some initial training in ICS or NIMS is able to immediately function in a multi-agency response involving not only other healthcare providers but other responders as well. ... The training need not be overly arduous, the majority of those working towards a degree in healthcare already have full course loads. The intent here is encourage all healthcare workers to obtain at least a basic familiarization with ICS or NIMS, not to become subject matter experts.

Healthcare workers that have been trained in the basics of incident management will more quickly grasp their role in a multi-agency response. Those who may have to work from a different location will be able to more quickly identify they equipment and supplies to take with them. The workers who have such preparation and training are able to quickly leave and report to their new work location.
Bob points out that an event such as pandemic flu could cause the conditions necessary for mass re-deployment of healthcare workers, since as much as 40 percent of healthcare workers could be absent due to illness. (I've also got a couple of prior posts on this.)

NIMS is not something you can just walk into and immediately comprehend. It's a system with its own terminology and internal structures. Given DHS' directive that all incident management in the U.S. - at all levels of government - must use NIMS to be eligible for federal disaster preparedness assistance, healthcare workers who are conversant with NIMS and ICS would be able to function in any disaster scenario, regardless of its scale or scope. It does make sense to give them this baseline familiarity.

I recall that many healthcare professionals deployed to New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. I haven't done any in-depth research on this aspect of the Katrina response, but no doubt there are some lessons learned from those experiences.

Update 2007-10-31: HHS' Hospital Preparedness Program requires hospitals to implement NIMS Compliance Activities for Hospitals. This includes implementing NIMS for the hospital and requiring designated staff members to complete four training courses on NIMS and the National Response Plan (NRP).

1 comment:

Orion1 said...

Health care is a late commer to the table, YES! However, they are comming. The Joint Commission is changing how hospitals focus on this. Healthcare's 1st step was a project that started over 2 years ago and culminate with its 1st phase. The projects was HICS (Hospital Emergency Response System) to make HICS NIMS consistent. HICS was HEICS (Hospital Emergency Incident Command System).

Hospitals are to have key players complete ether ICS 100, IS 200, IS 700 and IS 800 training or an equivalent course. As a memebr of the HICSFOUNDATION ( we provide basic ICS training to hospitals. It is a matter of hospitals taking serious Element 1 of the 17 elements of NIMS compliance for healthcare and looking closely at the new Joint Commission requirements and what NFPA 1600 outlines.

Training is actually simple if you this with the Steven Covey mantra in mind. Thinking systems and not short term will allow hospitals to consider dooing the right thing.