Am J Disaster Med 2015 ;10(3):189-204
Primary Investigator, Fellow, EMS and Disaster Medicine, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Newark, New Jersey.
Introduction: Emergency healthcare providers are required to care for victims of Chemical, Biological, Radiologic, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) agents. However, US emergency departments are often ill prepared to manage CBRNE casualties. Most providers lack adequate knowledge or experience in the areas of patient decontamination, hospital-specific disaster protocols, interagency familiarization, and available supply of necessary medical equipment and medications. This study evaluated the CBRNE preparedness of physicians, nurses, and midlevel providers in an urban tertiary care emergency department.
Methods: This retrospective observational survey study used a previously constructed questionnaire instrument. A total of 205 e-mail invitations were sent to 191 eligible providers through an online survey distribution tool (Survey Monkey®). Respondents were enrolled from February 1, 2014 to March 15, 2014. Simple frequencies of correct answers were used to determine the level of preparedness of each group. Cronbach's coefficient α was used to validate the precision of the study instrument. Finally, validity coefficients and analysis of variance ANOVA were used to determine the strength of correlation between demographic variables, as well as the variation between individual responses.
Results: Fifty-nine providers responded to the questionnaire (31.14 percent response rate). The overall frequency of correct answers was 66.26 percent, indicating a relatively poor level of CBRNE preparedness. The study instrument lacked precision and reliability (coefficient α 0.4050). Significant correlations were found between the frequency of correct answers and the respondents' gender, practice experience, and previous experience with a CBRNE incident. Significant variance exists between how providers believe casualties should be decontaminated, which drugs should be administered, and the interpretation of facility-specific protocols.
Conclusions: Emergency care providers are inadequately prepared to manage CBRNE incidents. Furthermore, a valid and precise instrument capable of measuring preparedness needs to be developed. Standardized educational curriculums that consider healthcare providers' genders, occupations, and experience levels may assist in closing the knowledge gaps between providers and reinforce emergency departments' CBRNE preparedness.