HHS Secretary Thompson Announces New National Nurses Response Team for Disasters
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson yesterday announced a new National Nurses Response Team, a group of volunteer nurses who will respond in the event of bioterrorist attacks, natural disasters or disease outbreaks, the Los Angeles Times reports. The response team, similar to the National Guard, will include "specially trained" nurses whom the government could deploy for two weeks to help with mass vaccinations in bioterrorist attacks or with treatment of the injured in natural disasters. The nurses will receive payment from the government for their time and can return to their jobs at the end of their deployment. Barbara Blakeney, president of the American Nurses Association, said that 900 nurses have volunteered for the response team and that 2,000 more will likely volunteer "once word spreads" (Trick, Los Angeles Times, 10/1). The ANA has signed an agreement with HHS to "serve as the conduit to recruit registered nurses" for the response team, which will have headquarters in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Kansas City, Denver, San Francisco and Seattle. "The nature of terrorism and mass casualty incidents requires a high level of coordination among federal, state, local and private resources," Thompson said. He added, "First responders will be local, and we need to help them be prepared. But such an event could quickly overwhelm local resources. We need to have nurses ready to provide expertise in emergency responses involving biologicals that are either naturally occurring or manmade" (HHS release, 9/30).
In related news, Thompson yesterday announced 34 grants that total more than $8.4 million to "expand the nation's nursing workforce and increase diversity in the nursing profession." The awards include Basic Nurse Education and Practice grants, which help improve basic nursing education and support nurse-managed clinics in underserved communities, and Nursing Workforce Diversity grants, which help fund student scholarships or stipends for nurses from "disadvantaged backgrounds." Thompson said, "President Bush and I are committed to taking appropriate steps to address the threat to quality care posed by the nation's shortage of nurses" (HHS release, 9/30). Thompson also asked Congress to increase funds for nursing education from $93 million to $100 million for the next fiscal year to "inject the profession with new blood," the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 10/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.