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HCC nursing students to receive disaster response training

Nursing students at Hagerstown Community College will participate in “Sheltering and Disaster Health for Nursing Students,” a pilot study sponsored by the American Red Cross that is intended to prepare students to volunteer with the Washington County Chapter of the Red Cross in the event of a disaster.

“With their strong commitment to community service, our nursing students want to be ready to respond should disaster strike close to home,” says Teresa Weedon, HCC instructor, nursing, who will serve as lead coordinator for the HCC pilot. “This workshop will prepare them to volunteer in Red Cross disaster settings.”

According to Weedon, the pilot will be given four times between November and June and will involve three registered nurse (RN) classes and one practical nurse class (LPN). The workshop will introduce students to the role of a Red Cross Disaster Health Services volunteer; prepare students to assess the needs of disaster clients and provide needed assistance; and provide strategies for working with vulnerable or at-risk populations.

 “The idea behind the pilot is to take a two-day course and reduce it to a four-hour workshop,” says Weedon. “The benefit to nursing students is that they not only receive disaster preparation, but this exercise will help them practice priority setting and triage in a real-world scenario. Priority setting, delegation, and assessment skills are an area of increasing focus on the 2010 NCLEX exam, which all nursing students are required to take in order to become a registered or licensed practical nurse. This workshop will help enhance student success in this area.”

According to the Red Cross, disaster preparedness is a critical component in the professional development of nursing students. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) requires emergency preparedness/disaster management content in all accredited baccalaureate nursing programs. “Sheltering and Disaster Health for Nursing Students” meets AACN requirements and nursing students who participate in the pilot will be better prepared should they decide to transfer to a four-year university after graduating from HCC.

HCC is one of 12 U.S. nursing schools participating in the American Red Cross National Student Nurse Program pilot study and is the only school in Maryland to be chosen. If the pilot study at HCC and other U.S. nursing schools is successful, the disaster training will be recommended as a basic part of nursing education for all nursing students.