Course in Responding to Bioterrorism Comes to University of Rochester

Nursing Elective Taps into World's First Disaster-Degree Program

November 02, 2001

Nurses and nursing students will begin learning how to respond to bioterrorism attacks, chemical warfare and other disasters in new coursework offered by the University of Rochester's School of Nursing. The training is in collaboration with Ireland's University of Ulster, whose degree program in disaster relief nursing is the first in the world.

The coursework will begin in January and will be completely up-to-date, addressing anthrax and other concerns made urgent by the September 11 terrorist attacks. Students will access the course through the University of Ulster's new "virtual campus," a distance-learning Internet portal called Campus One. The interactive on-line sessions will connect students with others from around the world. Any nurse or nursing student in the country can enroll.

The unique coursework was developed by educational institutions, aid relief organizations and national militaries in Britain, Ireland, Finland, Sweden and Spain. At least one toxicology expert at the University of Rochester Medical Center will serve as an instructor, as well.

The course, an elective for University of Rochester School of Nursing students, will focus on management and leadership during disasters. As part of the work, students will explore and evaluate how an actual disaster or major incident was managed. The University of Rochester and the University of Ulster are working together to offer subsequent courses in Ulster's master's degree program.

Plans for offering the new course at the University of Rochester actually began well before the September attacks, says Patricia Chiverton, Ed.D., R.N., dean of the School of Nursing. The Red Cross had approached the School a couple of years ago to recruit nurses for disaster relief work. According to Chiverton, the question became, "Wouldn't it be great to provide students with the competencies they need to work with the Red Cross?"

By making the course available, the School of Nursing is addressing both an educational need and a societal one.

"Our idea is that when students graduate, they might also have some specialty skills such as disaster relief," says Chiverton. "Someone would go into a nursing position and if there were a national disaster, they could respond. You'd have a cadre of professionals prepared with the necessary knowledge base required for the management of disasters or major incidents."

In addition, the School of Nursing will launch niche-market courses in forensic nursing and e-health in 2002. These, too, will be available as online, distance-learning courses.

The University of Ulster launched its e-learning Campus One portal in October after successful pilot programs in biomedical sciences and nursing education. On-line students have around-the-clock access to the university's support services, making the e-learning experience comparable to conventional learning. As part of that support, Campus One introduces students to the technology with special training several weeks before the term begins and also advises them on learning and time management skills.

Colleges and universities involved in planning and instruction in Ulster's pioneering disaster-relief program are the Red Cross College of Nursing and Health, Sweden; Bell College of Technology, Hamilton, Scotland; Civil Defense School, Dublin, Republic of Ireland; Häme Polytechnic, Finland; Karolinska Institutet, Sweden; Logistics Training Center, Finland; and the University of Glamorgan, Wales.

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