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Medical responders are at-risk of experiencing a wide range of negative psychological health conditions following a disaster.
Published literature was reviewed on the adverse psychological health outcomes in medical responders to various disasters and mass casualties in order to: (1) assess the psychological impact of disasters on medical responders; and (2) identify the possible risk factors associated with psychological impacts on medical responders.
A literature search of PubMed, Discovery Service, Science Direct, Google Scholar, and Cochrane databases for studies on the prevalence/risk factors of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental disorders in medical responders of disasters and mass casualties was carried out using pre-determined keywords. Two reviewers screened the 3,545 abstracts and 28 full-length articles which were included for final review.
Depression and PTSD were the most studied outcomes in medical responders. Nurses reported higher levels of adverse outcomes than physicians. Lack of social support and communication, maladaptive coping, and lack of training were important risk factors for developing negative psychological outcomes across all types of disasters.
Disasters have significant adverse effects on the mental well-being of medical responders. The prevalence rates and presumptive risk factors varied among three different types of disasters. There are certain high-risk, vulnerable groups among medical responders, as well as certain risk factors for adverse psychological outcomes. Adapting preventive measures and mitigation strategies aimed at high-risk groups would be beneficial in decreasing negative outcomes.
The central question this study sought to answer was whether the team members of Strategic Crisis Teams (SCTs) participating in mass-casualty incident (MCI) exercises in the Netherlands learn from their participation.
Evaluation reports of exercises that took place at two different times were collected and analyzed against a theoretical model with several dimensions, looking at both the quality of the evaluation methodology (three criteria: objectives described, link between objective and items for improvement, and data-collection method) and the learning effect of the exercise (one criterion: the change in number of items for improvement).
Of all 32 evaluation reports, 81% described exercise objectives; 30% of the items for improvement in the reports were linked to these objectives, and 22% of the 32 evaluation reports used a structured template to describe the items for improvement. In six evaluation categories, the number of items for improvement increased between the first (T1) and the last (T2) evaluation report submitted by hospitals. The number of items remained equal for two evaluation categories and decreased in six evaluation categories.
The evaluation reports do not support the ideal-typical disaster exercise process. The authors could not establish that team members participating in MCI exercises in the Netherlands learn from their participation. More time and effort must be spent on the development of a validated evaluation system for these simulations, and more research into the role of the evaluator is needed.
Verheul MLMI, Dückers MLA, Visser BB, Beerens RJJ, Bierens JJLM. Disaster exercises to prepare hospitals for mass-casualty incidents: does it contribute to preparedness or is it ritualism? Prehosp Disaster Med. 2018;33(4):387–393
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