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KNOXVILLE—When disaster strikes, nurses are on the front lines—caring for victims, managing resources, communicating information, and directing others in caring for people’s psychological and physical well-being. Yet, few educational programs offer nurses comprehensive training to lead in disaster situations worldwide.

disasterThe University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Nursing is accepting applications for its new Global Disaster Nursing program, which will train nurses to respond to emergencies anywhere in the world. The program will offer one-of-a-kind global disaster training for nurses earning advanced nursing degrees. Classes begin in January 2012.

The Global Disaster Nursing program is being funded by a three-year, $775,850 grant from the Health Resources and Service Administration, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

In 2005, the College of Nursing blazed a trail with the Homeland Security Nursing program, attracting hundreds of applicants and garnering national media attention for its unique program. The Global Disaster Nursing program is a natural transformation of the Homeland Security program, offering a more comprehensive curriculum to broadly prepare nurses for disasters on a global scale.

The Global Disaster Nursing program will address a largely unmet need in public health. It will prepare nurse leaders, managers and advance-practice nurses to plan for mass casualty disasters, effectively manage logistics of an event in progress, work cooperatively with government officials and responders, and provide direct patient care to victims of trauma or catastrophic events.

“This program will play a vital role in contributing to global health in the twenty-first century,” Dean Victoria Niederhauser said. “Nurses assume a key leadership role in emergency preparedness and response. This program expands leadership by providing advanced training and real-life experiences in response, recovery, and restoration of health during natural and man-made disasters.”

Susan Speraw, director of the program, said nurses have been on the forefront of patient care since the days of Florence Nightingale.

“Nurses are well-poised to respond to disasters. Their basic nursing education prepares them to deal with the unexpected,” she said. “They are also the perfect people to put into leadership positions, particularly with this graduate program that expands their knowledge to include response to catastrophic events and large-scale public health emergencies.”

Integral to the new program will be field experience, which includes either going abroad or working with an agency that responds to humanitarian needs in under-resourced areas. New course content will also train nurses in tropical medicine and infectious disease and how to practice in austere conditions where supplies are limited. This builds upon existing coursework, which trains nurses in global security threats, mass casualty and emergency communications, ethics, the ideology of terrorism, geopolitical affairs, management and leadership principles, as well disaster-specific nursing care.

“Every day you read in the newspaper about a disaster, yet undergraduate nurses are not educated in disaster response in their day-to-day coursework,” said 2007 Homeland Security program graduate, Barbara McNeely. “The Homeland Security program has expanded my knowledge base and has been my most rewarding professional experience.”

Featuring internships with local, state, and federal agencies, simulation exercises, and work with disaster relief agencies, the New Global Disaster program will offer master’s and doctoral degrees. A post-master’s certificate will also be available for nurses who already hold an advanced degree and want to obtain new skills in this specialized field. An interdisciplinary post-master’s certificate in global disaster studies will offer similar graduate-level coursework to non-nursing professionals.

Application deadlines vary for each degree. For information, call Susan Speraw in the College of Nursing at 865-974-7586 or visit

C O N T A C T :

Whitney Holmes (865-974-5460,

Susan Speraw (865-974-7586,