Are Region 8 Medical Personnel Ready for Terrorism Attack?

February 23, 2005 – Posted at 6:19 p.m. CST

JONESBORO -- As K8 News reported Tuesday, school nurses could be the first to detect a biological attack on Region 8. That's because they deal with sick students everyday and would notice the symptoms, or would they?

Three and a half years after 9/11 many healthcare providers say they still feel unprepared for a biological attack, including some right here in Arkansas. Are Arkansas' medical personnel ready for bio-terrorism? According to these two ASU Professors of Nursing they are not.

"People are not up to the latest on bio-terrorism," said Dr. Charlotte Young, ASU Nursing Professor.

This is according to a survey they sent to 268 physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners and registered nurses all over the state.

ASU Assistant Professor Debbie Persell said, "70% of them have actually not ever never attended any continuing education courses on bioterrorism."

But some have, the problem is most of the prepared work in hospitals.

"It's the rest of us that are trying to play catch up with our knowledge base," said Persell.

Us meaning people whose specialty isn't emergency medicine, like school nurses or your family doctor.

"Or they don't practice in a hospital and may not understand or don't realize that in a disaster in this scope every provider will be asked to lend a hand," said Young.

There is a statewide preparedness committee trying to determine training needs of health care professionals.

"We will have standards in place by the end of the summer that everyone that provides health care whether it be a first responder or physician or a nurse has basic training," said Kathryn Blackman of the N.E. Arkansas Bioterrorism Team.

At the same time ASU is trying to bridge this new disasters relief knowledge gap by offering new courses to nursing students.

"The focus of the course will really be on acts of terrorism whether is biological, nuclear or chemical," said Blackman.

Meaning some new ASU Nursing grads are more versed on world disasters, than seasoned professionals. Those new nursing disaster classes will start this summer. The courses are open to anyone who would like to attend.