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Three years following the global outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a national, Web-based survey of Canadian nurses was conducted to assess perceptions of preparedness for disasters and access to support mechanisms, particularly for nurses in emergency and critical care units.
The following hypotheses were tested: (1) nurses' sense of preparedness for infectious disease outbreaks and naturally occurring disasters will be higher than for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN)-type disasters associated with terrorist attacks; (2) perceptions of preparedness will vary according to previous outbreak experience; and (3) perceptions of personal preparedness will be related to perceived institutional preparedness.
Nurses from emergency departments and intensive care units across Canada were recruited via flyer mailouts and e-mail notices to complete a 30-minute online survey.
A total of 1,543 nurses completed the survey (90% female; 10% male). The results indicate that nurses feel unprepared to respond to large-scale disasters/attacks. The sense of preparedness varied according to the outbreak/disaster scenario with nurses feeling least prepared to respond to a CBRN event. A variety of socio-demographic factors, notably gender, previous outbreak experience (particularly with SARS), full-time vs. part-time job status, and region of employment also were related to perceptions of risk. Approximately 40% of respondents were unaware if their hospital had an emergency plan for a large-scale outbreak. Nurses reported inadequate access to resources to support disaster response capacity and expressed a low degree of confidence in the preparedness of Canadian healthcare institutions for future outbreaks.
Canadian nurses have indicated that considerably more training and information are needed to enhance preparedness for frontline healthcare workers as important members of the response community.
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