University of Tasmania

File(s) under permanent embargo

Disaster preparedness among health professionals and support staff: what is effective? An integrative literature review

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 03:42 authored by Gowing, JR, Walker, KN, Shandell ElmerShandell Elmer, Elizabeth CummingsElizabeth Cummings

Introduction: It is important that health professionals and support staff are prepared for disasters to safeguard themselves and the community during disasters. There has been a significantly heightened focus on disasters since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York (USA); however, despite this, it is evident that health professionals and support staff may not be adequately prepared for disasters.

Report: An integrative literature review was performed based on a keyword search of the major health databases for primary research evaluating preparedness of health professionals and support staff. The literature was quality appraised using a mixed-methods appraisal tool (MMAT), and a thematic analysis was completed to identify current knowledge and gaps.

Discussion: The main themes identified were: health professionals and support staff may not be fully prepared for disasters; the most effective content and methods for disaster preparedness is unknown; and the willingness of health professionals and support staff to attend work and perform during disasters needs further evaluation. Gaps were identified to guide further research and the creation of new knowledge to best prepare for disasters. These included the need for: high-quality research to evaluate the best content and methods of disaster preparedness; inclusion of the multi-disciplinary health care team as participants; preparation for internal disasters; the development of validated competencies for preparedness; validated tools for measurement; and the importance of performance in actual disasters to evaluate preparation.

Conclusion: The literature identified that all types of disaster preparedness activities lead to improvements in knowledge, skills, or attitude preparedness for disasters. Most studies focused on external disasters and the preparedness of medical, nursing, public health, or paramedic professionals. There needs to be a greater focus on the whole health care team, including allied health professionals and support staff, for both internal and external disasters. Evaluation during real disasters and the use of validated competencies and tools to deliver and evaluate disaster preparedness will enhance knowledge of best practice preparedness. However, of the 36 research articles included in this review, only five were rated at 100% using the MMAT. Due to methodological weakness of the research reviewed, the findings cannot be generalized, nor can the most effective method be determined.


Publication title

Prehospital and Disaster Medicine








School of Nursing


Cambridge University Press

Place of publication

United States

Rights statement

© World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine 2017

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Other health not elsewhere classified

Usage metrics

    University Of Tasmania


    Ref. manager