Nursing college awarded disaster preparedness training funds

September 30, 2004

Tampa, FL (Oct. 1, 2004) -- A new $434,000 U.S. Department of Defense contract to the University of South Florida College of Nursing will help prepare the Tampa Bay region's nurses and other health professionals to most effectively respond to potential bioterrorist attacks or other mass casualties.

"We have a shortage of nurses and other professionals trained to handle civilian or military disasters," said Patricia Burns, PhD, FAAN, dean of the College of Nursing and principal investigator for the project. "The USF College of Nursing is uniquely positioned to provide quality bioterrorism education that integrates the interests of the community."

The one-year contract will allow the College to work with hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and home health agencies to create an interdisciplinary disaster and trauma management program with an emphasis on bioterrorism education. The College will evaluate the specific training needs of these community health partners before developing the program.

Congressman C.W. Bill Young, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, helped USF obtain the disaster preparedness funding.

Tampa's proximity to MacDill Air Force Base, Crystal River Nuclear Power Plant and a Superfund site in Tarpon Springs makes the need for coordinated trauma and disaster preparation in West Central Florida even more pressing, Dr. Burns said. "Many health care facilities in the community are developing or have already started bioterrorism education programs. We will work closely with our clinical partners to identify gaps and overlaps in training, address unmet needs and strengthen links in the existing network."

The first classroom course will be offered in Spring 2005 as an elective for USF nursing students and as continuing education for health care personnel from the community. Future courses may be offered in other formats, including distance learning technology.

The college's learning resource center houses state-of-the-art equipment that will help instructors provide hands-on training in simulations of disasters. For example, robotic patients, programmed with life-and-death scenarios in real time, can be used to practice skills such as safe administration of medications and immunizations, wound care and ventilation techniques.

The goal is to provide participants with the assessment, technical and communication skills critical for managing mass casualty events that could otherwise quickly overwhelm local health care and emergency preparedness systems, Dr. Burns said.

University of South Florida (USF Health)

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