The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has announced that it is joining with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and other national organizations to better prepare health care professionals to respond to bioterrorism and other mass casualty events.

Since March 2001, AACN has been actively involved in the International Nursing Coalition for Mass Casualty Education (INCMCE), a group of national nursing, accrediting, and health organizations convened to create the resources needed to train nurses to provide emergency care during bioterrorism-related mass casualty events. Though nursing has always been a key part of the nation's emergency response system, many currently practicing nurses have no training in or experience with emergency preparedness. The goals of the Coalition are to:

-- Increase awareness and knowledge of all nurses about weapons of mass destruction and bioterrorism-related mass casualty events that could result from school or workplace violence, bombs or radiation release, or disasters of a nuclear, biological, or chemical nature;

-- Design competencies for integration into nursing education for students and continuing nursing education for practicing nurses as well as advanced practice content for nurses who will play strategic or leadership roles in response to bioterrorism, and;

-- Establish a clearinghouse for information and Web links for nurses about weapons of mass destruction and bioterrorism-related mass casualty events.

AACN, in its work with INCMCE, is leading the efforts to develop competencies for both practicing nurses and those new to the profession to prepare them to respond effectively to bioterrorism or other mass casualty events. AACN staff is leading the efforts of a wide array of specialty groups to develop competencies for nurses in emergency rooms, critical care settings, community health care agencies, and other settings to assure that nurses are prepared to provide quick response in times of bioterrorism emergencies. AACN will also work to assure that the programs of study preparing basic and advanced practice nurses are incorporating these important elements into the curriculum.

Formed by Vanderbilt University with support from the Office of Emergency Preparedness, the INCMCE includes representatives from the military, public health agencies, accrediting and regulatory bodies, the practice community, and law enforcement agencies including the FBI. AACN in collaboration with the Coalition has made a commitment to research the issues related to bioterrorism-related mass casualty events fully, locate interested partners, establish standards, and share vital information on a national and international level.

Reaching Out to the Larger Health Care Community
To further support the preparation of nurses, AACN is exploring ways to link with other national groups around the country engaged in emergency response education. AACN welcomes the opportunity to participate in the AAMC-sponsored Health Education Coalition on Bioterrorism scheduled for November 28, 2001 to develop a collective educational response to biological, radiation, and chemical terrorism. The association is also monitoring federal response efforts and actively seeking out new ways to:

-- Disseminate competencies and curricular models to the nation's nursing schools;

-- Focus attention on nursing in the national discussion on the education of emergency responders;

-- Enhance the association's Web site and email newsletter to share key links and Internet resources with the larger nursing community;

-- Communicate regularly with schools about national efforts to prepare for and respond to bioterrorism-related mass casualty events;

-- Host discussions and issues forums at AACN's conferences and meetings; and

-- Seek out federal and private funding sources to improve nursing education in the area of emergency response.

AACN is very concerned about the current state of nursing education and believes that all nurses must receive training to respond to nuclear, biological, and chemical emergencies as part of their basic education.