Emory nursing students trained in emergency preparedness will enter the nursing workforce just in time for the height of hurricane season. This month these students completed their master's degrees in Public Health Nursing Leadership (PHNL) from the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University.
A year ago, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged the Gulf Coast, creating one of the greatest public health crises in recent U.S. history. The hurricanes made landfall on August 29 and September 24, respectively. Nurses were among the first on the scene then, and today nurses are still among those helping the Gulf Coast communities rebuild.
"Public health nurses have been and will continue to be on the front lines when disasters like Hurricane Katrina and September 11 happen," says Linda A. Spencer, PhD, RN, clinical associate professor and specialty coordinator for the PHNL master's program. "Through the Public Health Nursing Leadership program, Emory's nursing students are uniquely prepared to deal with natural disasters, bio-terrorism and pandemic flu."
To prepare students to respond to the multitude of public health threats, Dr. Spencer secured a grant from the Division of Nursing, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to add the key element of emergency preparedness to the master's program in public health nursing leadership. The three-year grant began last fall and the first class of PHNL students with emergency preparedness training will complete the program in mid-August.
"My passion for health promotion and disease prevention led me to Emory's Public Health Nursing Leadership program. The classroom didactic I have received and the emergency preparedness experience I have gained outside the classroom have opened my eyes to many exciting career paths in public health nursing," says Celena McLaurin, BSN, RN, one of the students completing the program this summer. "I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience firsthand the impact that a public health nurse may make in the community setting."
Emory's Public Health Nursing Leadership program is the only master's degree program of its kind in the state of Georgia and one of only a few nursing schools in the country to offer a focus in emergency preparedness. As part of the standard PHNL course-load of the three-semester program, students also complete two courses in emergency preparedness: Terrorism and Public Health Preparedness and Disaster Nursing; complete 500 clinical hours in the emergency preparedness community; and have access to key partners including Emory's Rollins School of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Red Cross, CARE, Emory Healthcare and others.
"We know the consequences of terrorism and natural disasters are far reaching," says Dr. Spencer. "Public health nurses must assume leadership positions in disaster and emergency preparedness by creating innovative strategies to resolve new problems. Better-trained public health nurses will strengthen our public health infrastructure at all levels."
This year's Emory's PHNL graduates will be at-the-ready to serve as leaders and provide strength to the public health systems when this year's most threatening hurricanes come ashore.
The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University is recognized as a leader in the preparation of students for beginning and advanced practice nursing. Graduates of the school's programs are at the forefront in leadership, serving as role models for excellence in nursing practice throughout the world. The School of Nursing is committed to improving care and nursing leadership through its key values of scholarship, leadership and social responsibility. To learn more, visit www.nursing.emory.edu or call 404-727-7980.