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Public Health Nursing Competencies for Public Health Surge Events


Barbara J. Polivka, 1585 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210. E-mail:

ABSTRACT Objective:

To develop consensus regarding public health nursing competencies in the event of a public health surge event related to disaster.

Design and methods: Using a 3-round Delphi approach, public health nurses (PHNs) and directors of nursing from local health departments, state nursing leaders, and national nursing preparedness experts reviewed and commented on 49 draft competencies derived from existing documents.

Results: The final 25 competencies were categorized into Preparedness (n=9), Response (n=8), and Recovery (n=7). The Preparedness competencies focus on personal preparedness; comprehending disaster preparedness terms, concepts, and roles; becoming familiar with the health department's disaster plan, communication equipment suitable for disaster situations; and the role of the PHN in a surge event. Conducting a rapid needs assessment, outbreak investigation and surveillance, public health triage, risk communication, and technical skills such as mass dispensing are Response phase competencies. Recovery competencies include participating in the debriefing process, contributing to disaster plan modifications, and coordinating efforts to address the psychosocial and public health impact of the event.

Conclusions: Identification of competencies for surge events that are specific to public health nursing is critical to assure that PHNs are able to respond to these events in an effective and efficient manner.