Pharmacist Readiness Roles for Emergency Preparedness

Laura L. Pincock; Michael J. Montello; Matthew J. Tarosky; William F. Pierce; Calvin W. Edwards


Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2011;68(7):620-623. 

In This Article

Establishing Pharmacist Disaster-readiness Roles

Defining the pharmacist's role during a disaster facilitates individual, local, regional, and national disaster readiness through the provision of clear responsibilities and expectations, the design of training programs and career development guidelines, and the establishment of force-management guidelines (i.e., tools to ensure that a disaster-relief program has personnel with the right blend of skills and experiences). In addition, with the implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) across the spectrum of federal, state, tribal, and local disaster-response programs, defining the pharmacist's role provides a framework for the Incident Command System, which utilizes a chain of command to organize emergency responders during a disaster.[9,10]

To optimize individual performance in any job, the responsibilities for each role must be clearly defined.[11] Most people have good intentions, but good intentions alone often will not get the job done efficiently. Clearly defining the pharmacist's disaster-readiness roles promotes straightforward comprehension of the performance requirements necessary to be a successful and competent pharmacist responder. Defining the competencies associated with such roles enables pharmacist responders to adequately plan and prepare themselves to perform their duties effectively during emergency-response operations. If there is any uncertainty, predefined requirements provide a foundation for individuals to clarify performance expectations before being thrust into an emergency-response situation. In addition, the provision of clear expectations keeps individuals focused on mission objectives.

Emergency-response operations are often time sensitive and require quick decisive action to prevent further morbidity in the affected population. Disaster response is also a high-stress situation. Establishing duties upfront allows team members to manage stress more effectively by focusing on predefined responsibilities. In addition, preparation based on predefined roles minimizes the duplication of efforts and gaps in coverage. The competencies and proficiency levels associated with each pharmacist role further define the expectations required for each position.

Once finalized, the competencies can be used to identify and develop training programs or experiences suitable for each pharmacist's disaster-readiness role. Proficiency requirements help define the level of experience or training needed in each role. Existing training programs can be used to address the requirements for each competency and its associated proficiency requirements; however, given the special and unique requirements of each pharmacist's disaster-readiness role, some new training programs will need to be developed. In consideration of the limited resources available, careful decisions must be made to prioritize development of such training programs.

Pharmacists must be proactive and take the opportunity to define their role in a disaster before others define it for them. Currently in the conceptual stage for health and medical response, the typing of various resources is a central concept to NIMS.[9] A predefined set of readiness-response roles, including those for pharmacists, will be developed with the intent of future inclusion into NIMS. The intent of the typed resource system is to permit delivery of the appropriate resource for the response. It is incumbent on pharmacists to establish and define their role to ensure that their skills are utilized correctly, through NIMS, to maximize patient care in a disaster.

Defining pharmacist disaster-readiness roles also provides a mechanism for response leaders, pharmacy associations, and large health care organizations to develop force-management guidelines for their personnel. An organization can use these guidelines to ensure that it has the right mix of pharmacy personnel to respond to a likely crisis. As the basic entry-level position, it is anticipated that ambulatory care pharmacists should have predominant disaster-readiness roles that are complemented by the use of additional pharmacists with advanced clinical or specialized roles appropriate for an anticipated event.


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