ST. LOUIS -- Nurses wishing to learn how to handle the aftermath of a U.S. terrorist attack now are receiving the training they need through a new, one-of-a-kind certificate program that the Saint Louis University School of Nursing launched this month.
"Our disaster preparedness certificate program is based upon what we learned when we visited Israel to find out how nurses there deal with terrorism," says Dorothy James, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing at Saint Louis University.
"Four Saint Louis University faculty members -- two from our School of Nursing and two from the Center for the Study of Bioterrorism in our School of Public Health -- traveled to the Hadassah Medical Organization last October to see what Israeli healthcare professionals do after a terror attack. Terrorism is a part of everyday life in Israel and we knew Israeli nurses had special expertise to share. Now, we're sharing those proven procedures and practices with nurses in the United States."
The certificate program, believed to be the only one of its kind in the United States, is the first of several educational initiatives Saint Louis University is offering to prepare nurses to deal with terrorism.
"The program is geared to any nurse who wants further training in an important area. While we pray we will never have to put this knowledge into practice, the increasing threat of terrorism makes it imperative for us to develop programs to prepare nurses to efficiently and effectively handle a terrorist attack. Nurses will be the healthcare professionals to take the leadership role in preparing hospitals to deal with all kinds of disasters -- natural and man-made -- and they need training to handle the job," James says.
Saint Louis University is recognized as a leader in the war on terrorism. Its Center for the Study of Bioterrorism and Emerging Infections is the only such center specifically funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prepare first responders to handle a bioterrorist attack.
Greg Evans, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Study of Bioterrorism and one of the faculty members who went to Israel, says the School of Nursing initiative fits closely with his center's goals.
"Preparing health professionals and other first responders to handle bioterrorist attacks is our primary objective. We know people need the training because we're not prepared to deal with disasters, particularly in local communities. The Saint Louis University School of Nursing's effort to train nurses will meet a critical need," Evans says.
Nurses earning a certificate in disaster preparedness will participate in 10 sessions -- six core classes and four that they selected from 12 electives. Lectures on the assorted topics will run two to four hours. The curriculum also will be available through distance learning using the latest computerized technology including CD-ROM and the Internet, so nurses anywhere have the chance to receive a certificate in disaster preparedness.
"Our first goal is to make this information available to as many nurses who want it," James says. "We will take this program on the road and teach sessions at hospitals and other institutions that request the training for their nurses."
Saint Louis University School of Nursing also is offering continuing education programs on disaster related topics tailored to what nurses need to know. Plans are in the works to offer a joint MSN program through the School of Nursing and the School of Public Health that prepares advance practice nurses through comprehensive, in-depth coursework and practical experiences.
James and Joanne Langan, Ph.D., assistant professor at Saint Louis University School of Nursing, who also went to Israel, are editing a disaster preparedness textbook for nurses, to be published by Prentice-Hall, based upon what they learned in Israel. Some faculty members from the Henrietta Szold Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Nursing, who trained James and Langan also are collaborating on the book.
"What we learned in Israel can make a real difference in the way American nurses respond to calls of mass casualties," James says. "We are determined to share the knowledge with as many nurses who request it."