Evergreen leadership is ready for all emergencies

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Evergreen healthcare leaders got a first-hand look at disaster preparedness and response.
Barb Jensen, R.N. and manager of the Emergency Preparedness Program at Evergreen Hospital, wants the community to know how hard the staff at the medical center is working to ensure that it is prepared for any and all emergencies.

"Evergreen is committed to serving the community and to remaining open during disasters," explains Jensen. "In order to do this to the best of our abilities, our staff needs to be trained to respond to all types of situations that might arise. They will be first responders and they will have to make critical decisions in a crisis."

Over the past four years, the Woodinville woman has been working to get leadership at Evergreen engaged in understanding the importance and need for specific training.

She says, "It’s hard to get the money and hours set aside for something that may never happen. It wasn’t viewed as a necessity until 2009 when the joint commission, the body that accredits hospitals, made emergency planning and disaster management a priority by developing a chapter of required standards for all medical centers."

Evergreen subsequently formed an emergency preparedness department, with Jensen at its helm, assisted by Dr. Warren Appleton, the medical director for Emergency Preparedness.

In January of this year, the hospital sent 23 healthcare leaders to a four-day training program at the Noble Training Facility, which is operated by the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Alabama.

The course was offered and fully funded by FEMA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"This is the only place in the country dedicated to training hospital and healthcare professionals in disaster preparedness and response," comments Jensen. "The facility offers several courses in dealing with situations that involve hazardous materials, weapons of mass destruction and mass casualties. What’s unique about the training is that it is done at a real hospital using live actors. This really gives the feeling of being immersed in these types of situations."

Jensen, who was one of the individuals participating in the training, explains that the experience really opens people’s eyes and helps them differentiate between book and experiential learning.

She says, "Everyone who attended had ‘aha’ moments. The folks at the center throw things at you, like disorderly conduct, media, police issues, and more. They try to put you off balance. And they make you sweat and feel that it’s really happening. It’s incredible!"

Following each exercise, students were debriefed. They had the opportunity to discuss their decisions and actions with the trainers, many who are experts in the field and manage incident teams all over the U.S.

Other leaders from Evergreen who attended along with Jensen included representatives from across the healthcare continuum, such as the director of pharmacy, an information technology specialist, the telecommunications manager, director of respiratory therapy, weekend nursing supervisors, E.R. doctors and a communicable disease specialist.

The cities of Kirkland and Redmond sent representatives, too.

"It’s important that a wide range of people involved in healthcare get this training," remarks Jensen. "All of us all be responders in a mass emergency or disaster situation."

Jensen plans to send four more teams to the training in the upcoming months. And then her goal is to send select staff members to various specialty training courses.

She adds, "We can do this – send all these people – because of the commitment made by Evergreen’s administration. They have fully embraced the need for this and we have the green light to get key people trained."

And while most folks might not think of Woodinville and the Greater Seattle area as a prime target for large scale disasters, Jensen makes note of an important point:

"Think of what’s here in Western Washington and it may challenge some minds – Boeing, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Bangor, ferry boats, and the list goes on. We have plenty of reasons because we have plenty of targets, not to mention that we’re sitting on a major earthquake fault."

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