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KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee College of Nursing will offer a master’s degree in Homeland Security Nursing – the first of its kind in the nation – designed to meet a critical need in America’s health care industry.

A three-year $650,879 grant, funded by the Health Resources Service Administration – part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – will enable UT to begin offering classes this fall.

The degree program will address a largely unmet need in public health by preparing nurse leaders, managers and clinical nursing specialists to plan for mass casualty disasters, effectively manage logistics of an event in progress, work cooperatively with local, state and federal officials and responders, and provide direct patient care to victims of trauma or toxic exposure.

“As a research university, we have an obligation to educate students to deal with society’s most pressing needs. Clearly the issues surrounding homeland security are a top national priority. Through this new program, we are working to do our part to prepare tomorrow’s leaders,” said UT Chancellor Loren Crabtree.

“The College of Nursing will lead the nation for this emerging specialty and further enhance its reputation for academic excellence and service,” Crabtree said.

“We are grateful to our state and federal partners who recognize UT’s potential to lead such an opportunity and for their continued role in ensuring that we develop the very best experiences for our students, who in turn serve our nation and world.”

Partners contributing expertise, consultation and collaborative support are the UT/Oak Ridge National Laboratory Center for Homeland Security and Counterproliferation and the UT Graduate School of Medicine’s Center for Homeland Security Studies.

Capt. Roberta Lavin, chief policy officer for the Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness, Office of the Secretary of Health & Human Services, said every nurse requires a core competency in emergency preparedness to orchestrate the complex response related to terrorist or bioterrorist events or natural disasters.

“In the past, one of the most limiting factors in responding to mass casualty events has been the number of nurses available to support existing staff during a crisis when the number of victims can rapidly overwhelm the best hospital,” Lavin said.

“Having innovative programs that train nurses to work within the National Response Plan will ensure the nation has caring professionals who are better prepared to plan for and respond to terrorism. This program is truly a service to the nation,” she said.

Lavin received a master’s degree in nursing in 1991 from UT, and in 2003 received the nursing college’s Distinguished Alumnus award. She has provided strong support for development of the Homeland Security Nursing program.

Through her service, Lavin helped meet the health care delivery challenges associated with the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. She has since led the formation of a national volunteer nurses response team.

Nurses outnumber physicians 4-to-1 and are involved in most health care delivery, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Nationally, health care experts predict homeland security preparedness will soon become accreditation criteria for hospitals and health care centers.

“Despite the growing realities of terrorism in our world, there are few programs beyond in-service and continuing education programs that train professionals in homeland security,” said UT Nursing Dean Joan Creasia.

“Yet, nurses are uniquely qualified through their broad range of training and skill. From management, education, risk assessment, triage and delivery of total patient care with a holistic approach, we will assume a key leadership role in emergency preparedness and response,” she said.

Researchers from the UT/ORNL Center for Homeland Security and Counterproliferation and from the Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site REAC/TS will provide practical experience. REAC/TS is a program of Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), which is operated by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), a contractor to the U.S. Department of Energy. Field experience will teach students about current research, strategies and challenges related to providing homeland security in an ever-changing global setting.

“This important program demonstrates the strength of regional cooperation and how the UT/ORNL partnership can translate scientific research into practice and have a major impact on homeland security and domestic preparedness,” said retired Major General John Doesburg, director of Homeland Security Programs, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Providing health care in a mass casualty situation that overwhelms the existing capacity within a community requires addressing the complex social, psychological and physical needs of patients, providers and the surrounding communities, said program director Susan Speraw.

Coursework will train nurses in homeland security threats, mass casualty and emergency communications, ethics, the ideology of terrorism and geopolitical affairs, management and leadership principles, as well disaster-specific nursing care.

Featuring internships with local, state and federal agencies, simulation exercises, and work with disaster relief agencies, the new master’s program will offer two tracks: management and advanced clinical practice. In addition, a post-master’s certificate will be available for nurses who already hold a master’s degree but wish to obtain new skills in this specialized field.

Students will share courses and hands-on experience with fellows in the UT Graduate Medical Fellowship in Homeland Security Studies.

Expert faculty from a number of UT colleges will teach or lend expertise to the program – professors from the College of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Institute of Agriculture. Federal, state and local partners also will participate.

Applications are being accepted for the program. For information, call Michele Petree in the College of Nursing at 865-974-0591.

For more information about the College of Nursing and the Homeland Security Nursing master’s degree, visit http://nightingale.con.utk.edu.

Susan Speraw (865-974-7586)
Karen Collins (865-974-5186)