Educational Competencies for Registered Nurses Responding to Mass Casualty Incidents
NEPEC Competency Committee
Joan Stanley, (Chair)
I would like to thank Janet Merritt, a doctoral student at the George Mason University College of Nursing and Health Science, for her contribution to the research and development of this document. (Joan Stanley)
NEPEC Competency Committee Members
American Association of Colleges of Nursing
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
American Organization of Nurse Executives
Columbia University School of Nursing
Columbia University School of Nursing
Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Duquesne University School of Nursing
Emergency Nurses Association
Jacksonville State University
National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission
National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties
University of Glamorgan (South Wales)
University of Ulster School of Nursing
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing
Educational Competencies for Registered Nurses
Responding to Mass Casualty Incidents
As part of the international community's overall plan for emergency preparedness in mass casualty incidents (MCI), nurses world-wide must have a minimum level of knowledge and skill to appropriately respond to a mass casualty incident, including chemical, biologic, radiologic, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) events. Not all nurses can or should be prepared as First Responders. Every nurse, however, must have sufficient knowledge and skill to recognize the potential for a MCI, identify when such an event may have occurred, know how to protect oneself, know how to provide immediate care for those individuals involved, recognize their own role and limitations, and know where to seek additional information and resources. Nurses also must have sufficient knowledge to know when their own health and welfare may be in jeopardy and have a duty to protect both themselves and others. The potential roles of professional nurses in a MCI may vary extensively due to diverse educational backgrounds, experiences, and practice settings within the community and health care system. These roles may include identifying when a MCI has occurred, responding to a call to go to the scene of an incident, working at a local hospital or emergency field hospital where victims are being treated, or relieving nurses who were initially involved in these activities.
The competencies identified in this document apply to all professional nurse roles and practice settings. Practice sites encompass a wide array of settings, including acute care facilities, clinics, schools, homes, and other community venues. The individual competencies are general and must be interpreted in relation to the functional role of an individual nurse within an agency or community and the respective emergency response plan. Therefore, competencies will be applied to practice in differing ways depending on the specific roles and responsibilities the nurse performs within the agency, community and national response plans.
Much of the knowledge and experiences underpinning the competencies related to appropriate and timely response to MCIs are basic to nursing practice. Therefore, most of the principles and information necessary for the development of competence in these areas are included in all basic nursing education programs. However, the context in which these competencies may be employed could vary and the nurse's role would be specific to the situation. The competencies in this document have been prepared to help nurse educators include MCI preparedness in the nursing curriculum.
Six essential components of professional nursing education have been identified (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 1998). The MCI nursing competencies identified in this document fall within three of the components of nursing education: core competencies, core knowledge, and professional role development. Therefore, to facilitate the integration of these competencies within the nursing curriculum, The Essentials of Baccalaureate Education for Professional Nursing Practice (1998) is used as a framework to delineate MCI competencies.
All nurses from novice to expert should have a basic knowledge and ability to appropriately respond to MCIs. This document describes competencies of graduates of entry-level registered nursing programs. Nurses upon graduation from an entry-level nursing education program should have sufficient knowledge and skill to demonstrate these competencies. To attain this goal, all entry-level nursing education programs should integrate the necessary knowledge and experiences throughout the nursing curriculum. Nurses who have completed basic education requirements and are registered to practice should receive the needed additional education through continuing education opportunities, provided through a various modalities.
Americans and the international community must be well prepared to respond to MCIs. The 2.7 million registered nurses in the United States, as well as the nursing population worldwide, provide a tremendous untapped resource that can and must be used if the nation is to adequately prepare for MCIs. In order for nurses to respond appropriately to MCIs, guidelines and recommendations must be in place to ensure that they can recognize and respond to potential and occurring emergency events. Currently, nursing education guidelines do not mandate or recommend that all nurses be educated on how to recognize or respond to MCIs.
The Nursing Emergency Preparedness Education Coalition (NEPEC) is coordinated by the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. (See Appendix B for a list of organizations participating in the NEPEC.) It was founded to assure a competent nurse workforce to respond to mass casualty incidents. The NEPEC seeks to facilitate the systematic development of policies related to mass casualty incidents as they influence the public health infrastructure and impact on nursing practice, education, research and regulation.
The NEPEC currently focuses on several areas: 1) increasing the awareness of all nurses about mass casualty incidents; 2) providing leadership to the nursing profession for the development of knowledge and expertise related to mass casualty education; 3) identifying competencies for nurses at academic and continuing education levels; 4) establishing a clearinghouse of information and web links for professional development of nurses; and 5) providing input into policy development related to nursing practice, education and research at the governmental and institutional levels. The NEPEC consists of organizational representatives of schools of nursing, nursing accrediting bodies, nursing specialty organizations and governmental agencies interested in promoting mass casualty education for nurses.
To address the critical need for MCI preparedness, the Nursing Emergency Preparedness Education Coalition (NEPEC), in March 2001, appointed a committee to develop competencies for professional nurses in relation to MCIs. Members of the Committee represented graduate and undergraduate schools of nursing in the United States and abroad, professional nursing organizations, and practicing nurses. The Committee formed to develop a set of national consensus-based, validated competencies for all entry-level nurses not dependent upon role or setting.
The process used to develop the competencies consisted of three distinct phases:
Phase One: The first phase of the process was to review previously developed sets of competencies related to MCIs. The recommendations set forth in this document are based heavily on those competencies delineated by the American College of Emergency Physicians (April 2001); Center for Health Policy, Columbia School of Nursing (April 2001); University of Ulster, University of Glamorgan School of Health Sciences School of Nursing (September 1999); Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Graduate School of Nursing (November 2001); United States Air Force (2001); and the World Health Organization (1999).
Phase Two: During phase two, the Committee and the NEPEC responded to several drafts of nursing competencies, developed based on the literature outlined above. This process produced a set of consensus-based competencies for entry-level professional nurses.
Phase Three: Phase three involved the review and evaluation of the competencies by a Validation Panel. Each school and organization participating in the NEPEC was asked to nominate up to three individuals to serve on the Validation Panel. The Validation Panel consisted of 46 representatives of nursing education, regulation, accreditation, and practice from diverse practice settings and roles. See Appendix A for organizations and institutions represented on the Validation Panel. The Committee used feedback from the Validation Panel to finalize and reach consensus on the competencies.
COMPETENCIES FOR ENTRY-LEVEL REGISTERED NURSES
RELATED TO MASS CASUALTY INCIDENTS
I. Critical Thinking
1. Use an ethical and nationally approved framework to
support decision-making and
prioritizing needed in disaster situations.
2. Use clinical judgment and decision-making skills in assessing the potential for appropriate, timely individual care during a mass casualty incident.
3. Use clinical judgment and decision-making skills in assessing the potential for appropriate, individual ongoing-care after a mass casualty incident.
4. Describe at the pre-disaster, emergency and post-disaster
phases the essential
nursing care for:
- special groups, e.g. children, elderly, pregnant women; and
5. Describe accepted triage principles specific to mass casualty incidents,
e.g. the START
or Simple Triage and Rapid Treatment System.
1. Assess the safety issues for self, the response team,
and victims in any given response
situation in collaboration with the incident response team.
2. Identify possible indicators of a mass exposure (i.e,
clustering of individuals with the
3. Describe general signs and symptoms of exposure to selected
radiological, nuclear, and explosive agents (CBRNE).
4. Demonstrate the ability to access up-to-date information
regarding selected nuclear,
biological, chemical, explosive, and incendiary agents
5. Describe the essential elements included in a mass casualty
6. Identify special groups of patients that are uniquely
vulnerable during a MCI, e.g.
the very young, aged, immunosuppressed.
1. Conduct a focused health history to assess potential exposure to CBRNE agents.
2. Perform an age-appropriate health assessment, including:
— airway and respiratory assessment,
— cardiovascular assessment, including vital signs and monitoring for signs of shock,
— integumentary assessment, particularly a wound, burn, and rash assessment,
— pain assessment,
— injury assessment from head to toe,
— gastrointestinal assessment, including stool specimen collection,
— basic neurological assessment,
— musculoskeletal assessment, and
— mental status, spiritual, and emotional assessment.
3. Assess the immediate psychological response of the individual,
family, or community
following a MCI.
4. Assess the long-term psychological response of the individual,
family, or community
following a MCI
5. Identify resources available to address the psychological
impact, e.g. Critical Incident
Stress Debriefing (CISD) teams, counselors, Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioners
6. Describe the psychological impact on responders and health care providers.
III. Technical Skills
1. Demonstrate safe administration of medications, particularly vasoactive
agents, via oral (PO), subcutaneous (SQ), intramuscular (IM), and intravenous (IV)
2. Demonstrate the safe administration of immunizations, including smallpox vaccination.
3. Demonstrate knowledge of appropriate nursing interventions for adverse
4. Demonstrate basic therapeutic interventions, including:
— basic first aid skills,
— oxygen administration and ventilation techniques,
— urinary catheter insertion,
— naso-gastric tube insertion,
— lavage technique, i.e. eye and wound, and;
— initial wound care.
5. Assess the need for and initiate the appropriate CBRNE isolation
procedures available, ensuring that all parties understand the need.
6. Demonstrate knowledge and skill related to personal protection and
the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for:
— Level B protection,
— Level C protection, and
— Respiratory protection.
7. Describe how nursing skills may have to be adapted while wearing PPE.
8. Implement fluid/nutrition therapy, taking into account the nature
of injuries and/or
agents exposed to and monitoring hydration and fluid balance accordingly.
9. Assess and prepare the injured for transport, if required, including
provisions for care
and monitoring during transport.
10. Demonstrate the ability to maintain patient safety during transport
splinting, immobilization, monitoring, and therapeutic interventions.
1. Describe the Incident Command System (ICS) during a MCI.
2. Identify your role, if possible, within the ICS.
3. Locate and describe the emergency response plan for
the place of employment
and its role in community, state, and regional plans.
4. Identify one's own role in the emergency response plan for the place of employment.
5. Discuss security and confidentiality during a MCI.
6. Demonstrate appropriate emergency documentation of assessments,
nursing actions and outcomes during and after a MCI.
7. Identify appropriate resources for referring requests
from patients, media, or others
for information regarding MCIs.
8. Describe principles of risk communication to groups
and individuals affected by
exposure during a MCI.
9. Identify reactions to fear, panic and stress that victims,
families, and responders
may exhibit during a disaster situation.
10. Describe appropriate coping strategies to manage self and others.
I. Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Disease Prevention
1. Identify possible threats and their potential impact on the general public, emergency
medical system (EMS), and the health care community.
2. Describe community health issues related to CBRNE events, specifically limiting exposure
to selected agents, contamination of water, air, and food supplies, and shelter and
protection of displaced persons.
II. Health Care Systems and Policy
1. Define and distinguish the terms disaster and mass casualty incident (MCI) in relation
to other major incidents or emergency situations.
2. Define relevant terminology, including:
— Incident Command System (ICS),
— scene assessment, and
— comprehensive emergency management.
3. Describe the four phases of emergency management: preparedness,
recovery and mitigation.
4. Describe the local emergency response system for disasters.
5. Describe the interaction between local, state and federal emergency response systems.
6. Describe the legal authority of public health agencies
to take action to protect the
community from threats, including isolation, quarantine, and required reporting
7. Discuss principles related to a MCI site as a crime
scene, e.g. maintaining integrity
of evidence, chain of custody.
8. Recognize the impact MCIs may have on access to resources
and identify how to
access additional resources, e.g. pharmaceuticals, medical supplies.
III. Illness and Disease Management
1. Discuss the differences/similarities between an intentional
biological attack and
that of a natural disease outbreak.
2. Assess, using an interdisciplinary approach, the short
term and long term effects of
physical and psychological symptoms related to disease and treatment secondary to MCIs.
IV. Information and Health Care Technologies
1. Demonstrate use of emergency communication equipment
that you will be required
to use in a MCI response.
2. Discuss the principles of containment and decontamination.
3. Describe procedures for decontamination of self, others,
and equipment for
selected CBRNE agents.
1. Identify and discuss ethical issues related to CBRNE events:
— Rights and responsibilities of health care providers in MCIs, e.g. refusing to go to work
or report for duty, refusal of vaccines.
— Need to protect the public versus an individual's right for autonomy, e.g. right to
leave the scene after contamination.
— Right of the individual to refuse care, informed consent.
— Allocation of limited resources.
— Confidentiality of information related to individuals and national security.
— Use of public health authority to restrict individual activities, require reporting
from health professionals, and collaborate with law enforcement.
2. Describe the ethical, legal, psychological, and cultural considerations
when dealing with
the dying and or the handling and storage of human remains in a mass casualty incident.
3. Identify and discuss legal and regulatory issues related
— abandonment of patients;
— response to a MCI and one's position of employment; and
— various roles and responsibilities assumed by volunteer efforts.
VI. Human Diversity
- 1. Discuss the cultural, spiritual, and social issues that
may affect an individual’s
response to a MCI.
- 2. Discuss the diversity of emotional, psycho-social and
socio-cultural responses to
terrorism or the threat of terrorism on one’s self and others.
Professional Role Development
1. Describe these nursing roles in MCIs:
— EMT or First Responder
— Direct care provider, generalist nurse
— Direct care provider, advanced practice nurse
— Director/coordinator of care in hospital/nurse administrator or
emergency department nurse manager
— On-site coordinator of care/incident commander
— On-site director of care management
— Information provider or educator, particularly the role of the generalist nurse
— Mental health counselor
— Member of planning response team
2. Identify the most appropriate or most likely health care role for oneself during a MCI.
3. Identify the limits to one’s own knowledge/skills/abilities/authority related to MCIs.
4. Describe essential equipment for responding to a MCI,
e.g. stethoscope, registered
nurse license to deter imposters, packaged snack, change of clothing, bottles of water.
5. Recognize the importance of maintaining one’s
expertise and knowledge in this area
of practice and of participating in regular emergency response drills.
6. Participate in regular emergency response drills in the community or place of employment.
References Cited in Document
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Appendix A: Organizations Represented on the Validation Panel
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
National Organization of Nurse
Appendix B: Nursing Emergency Preparedness Education Coalition(NEPEC)
Organizations and Institutions
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Rush University College of Nursing