Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Risk communication with nurses during infectious disease outbreaks: Learning from SARS

Eileen O’Connor, PhD, Tracey O’Sullivan, PhD, Carol Amaratunga, PhD, Patricia Thille BSc (PT), PhD (Student), Karen P. Phillips, PhD, Michelle Carter, MSc, Louise Lemyre, PhD, FRSC

Abstract


Objective: To identify gaps in risk communication during public health emergencies as identified by nurses who worked in critical and emergency care hospital units during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Canada.
Design: This research is part of a larger multimethod study of the psychosocial impacts of the SARS outbreak in Canada for healthcare workers. For this qualitative analysis of risk communication, focus groups were conducted in four Canadian cities using purposive sampling to study perspectives of frontline critical care and emergency department nurses. Covello’s (2003) model of best practices in risk communication is applied to assess specific areas in which risk communication gaps were identified by nurses interviewed in the focus groups.
Setting: Five focus groups held in four Canadian cities: Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver.
Participant/Data: n _ 100 participated in focus groups in four urban communities.
Results: During the SARS outbreak in 2003, high levels of uncertainty, lack of trust, and questions about leadership credibility emerged as important risk communication challenges. Communication problems were compounded by a lack of reliable information, frequent changes in infection control guidelines and risk avoidance messages, as well as contradictory actions of management and senior leaders.
Conclusions: Risk communication constitutes an important component of any emergency protocol. This study of nurses working in emergency and critical care hospital settings during the 2003 SARS outbreak indicates key areas in which risk communication could be more efficient to address nurses’ concerns related to managing uncertainty, occupational health and safety, and employee quality of life. Recommendations useful for planning of any pandemics including H1N1 are derived.


Keywords


risk communication; occupational support; SARS; nurses; infectious disease; emergency management; pandemic planning; disaster medicine

Full Text:

PDF

References


Covello VT: Best practices in public health risk and crisis communication. J Health Commun. 2003; 8: 5-8.

World Health Organization: Summary of probable SARS cases with onset of illness from 1 November 2002 to 31 July 2003. Available at http://www.who.int/csr/sars/country/table2004_04_21/en/index.html. Accessed April 30, 2008.

Lee JEC, Lemyre L, Legault L, et al.: Factor analytic investigation of Canadians’ population health risk perceptions: The role of locus of control over health risks. Int J Global Environmental Issues. 2008; 8: 112-131.

Powell DA, Leiss W: Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk: The Perils of Poor Risk Communication. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997.

Leiss W: Effective risk communication practice. Toxicol Lett. 2004; 149: 399-404.

Glik DC: Risk communication for public health emergencies. Ann Rev Public Health. 2007; 28: 33-54.

Frewer L: The public and effective risk communication. Toxicol Lett. 2004; 149: 391-397.

Jardine C, Hrudey S, Shortreed J, et al.: Risk management frameworks for human health and environmental risks. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2003; 6: 569-720.

Lemyre L, Turner M, Lee JEC, et al.: Differential perception of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear terrorism in Canada. Int J Risk Assess Manage. 2007; 7-8: 1191-1208.

Krewski D, Lemyre L, Turner MC, et al.: Public perception of population health risks in Canada: Health hazards and sources of information. Human Ecol Risk Assess. 2006; 12: 626-644.

O’Sullivan T, Dow D, Turner M, et al.: Disaster and emergency management: Canadian nurses’ perceptions of preparedness on hospital front lines. Prehosp Disast Med. 2008; 23: S11.

O’Sullivan TL, Amaratunga CA, Phillips KP, et al.: If schools are closed, who will watch our kids? . . . Family caregiving and other sources of role conflict among nurses during large scale outbreaks. Prehosp Disast Med 2009; 24: 321-325.

O’Sullivan TL, Amaratunga CA, Hardt J, et al.: Are we ready? Evidence of support mechanisms for Canadian health care workers in multi-jurisdictional emergency planning. Can J Public Health. 2007; 98: 358-363.

Amaratunga CA, O’Sullivan TL, Phillips KP, et al.: Ready, aye ready! Support mechanisms for health care workers in emergency planning: A critical gap analysis of three hospital emergency plans. J Emergency Manage. 2007; 5: 23-38.

Amaratunga CA, Phillips KP, O’Connor E, et al.: Chapter 7: The need for healthcare worker sex and gender-sensitive supports during infectious disease outbreaks. In Tyshenko MG, Paterson C (eds.): SARS Unmasked: Risk Communication of Pandemics and Influenza in Canada. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010 (in press).

Chartier B: Tools for leadership and learning: Building a learning organization (3rd edition). Available at http://www.managersgestionnaires.gc.ca/cafe-exchange/tools/toolkit/teamlearning_e.shtml. Accessed April 22, 2008.

Lee JEC, Lemyre L: Terrorism risk perception and individual response to terrorism in Canada: A social-cognitive perspective. Risk Anal 2009; 29: 1265-1280.

Bartley BH, Stella JB,Walsh LD: What a disaster?! Assessing utility of simulated disaster exercise and educational process for improving hospital preparedness. Prehosp Disast Med. 2006; 21: 249-255.

Lemrye L: Psychosocial risk manager (PriMer): Computerbased pre-event training CRTI 06-0259TD. Proceedings Public Security S&T Summer Symposium, Edmonton, Alberta, 2008.

O’Connor E, Phillips KP: Developing a public health web game to complement traditional education methods in the classroom. JOLT: J Online Learn Teach. 2007; 3: 257-264.

Ullberg L, Monahan C, Harvey K: The new face of emergency preparedness training: Using second life to save first lives. Proc Second Life Education Workshop. 2007; 96-99.




DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/jem.2009.0021

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Copyright (c) 2018 Journal of Emergency Management