Hospital-based special needs patient decontamination: Lessons from the shower


  • Julie Bulson, MPA, BSN, RN
  • Timothy C. Bulson, MS
  • Kathi S. Vande Guchte, FRO-T, HERT-T



hospital decontamination, special needs patient, pediatric decontamination, tabletop drill, functional exercise


Objectives: A hospital-based decontamination team tested whether it could (1) perform effective technical decontamination while maintaining safety of staff and patients; (2) safely accommodate unique needs in the showers, including guide dogs and motorized wheelchairs; (3) identify needs of special needs populations by patient type, including blindness, hearing loss, and cognitive learning disabilities; (4) outline effective use of federal preparedness funds to support planning and execution of tabletop and mock victim drills; and (5) demonstrate the ability of a community hospital to act as a catalyst for community-wide disaster response improvements.
Design: A series of five disaster exercises were used to test hypotheses and to generate quality improvement results.
Setting: Fixed emergency department decontamination facilities.
Patients/participants: A total of 39 hospitalbased decontamination team members, 40 other drill staff, and 35 mock victims were included.
Main outcome measures: Three priority decontamination operations changes resulted from each of the five completed drills.
Results: Formulated prioritized list of decontamination team procedural changes to improve patient safety and technical decontamination and to generate a table of best practices to share.
Conclusions: With enhanced training, disaster drills participation of community response agencies and special needs patients, community hospitals can improve safety while accommodating unique patient needs.

Author Biographies

Julie Bulson, MPA, BSN, RN

Director, Emergency Preparedness, Spectrum Health Hospital Group, Quality Department, Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Timothy C. Bulson, MS

Grants Developer, Spectrum Health Research Department, Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Kathi S. Vande Guchte, FRO-T, HERT-T

Project Coordinator, Safety and Training, Quality Department, Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids, Michigan.


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How to Cite

Bulson, MPA, BSN, RN, J., T. C. Bulson, MS, and K. S. Vande Guchte, FRO-T, HERT-T. “Hospital-Based Special Needs Patient Decontamination: Lessons from the Shower”. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, vol. 5, no. 6, Nov. 2010, pp. 353-60, doi:10.5055/ajdm.2010.0041.