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Last month, the American College of Healthcare Executives of Middle Tennessee presented "The Healthcare Leader's Role in Preparing for the Unthinkable" in collaboration with the Middle Tennessee chapter of the Organization of Nursing Executives (MT-ONE). The event, held at the Tennessee Hospital Association's headquarters in Brentwood, drew a record turnout of leaders despite inclement weather. In light of recent disasters and national events, this program turned out to be extremely timely.

John Morris, MD, associate chief of staff for Vanderbilt Health Systems, discussed ways that healthcare leaders could prepare for disaster management and mass casualty events. He addressed many areas of concern, including the importance of business continuity, avoiding disruption, supply chain concerns, and even tapping into different forms of transportation - such as utilizing Uber and Lyft - to get adequate staff to work. Morris also emphasized the importance of documentation in crisis management, discussing cost, probability, solution implementation, and rationale documentation.

Chris Clarke, senior vice president of Clinical Services for the Tennessee Center for Patient Safety, which is a department of the THA, served as panel moderator and led a dynamic conversation about action in the face of adversity. Susan Peach, CEO of Sumner Regional Medical Center, offered a personal recollection of the terrifying events that unfolded during an active shooter incident last spring and shared some surprising revelations as a result of that incident. The group explored free services from the local police department available to all healthcare leaders to evaluate facilities for safety and points of vulnerability to increase security and safe guard against a future event.

HCA's Michael Wargo further contributed to the discussion with his knowledge about best practices and policies regarding perimeter security. He brought a wealth of information about situational awareness and behavioral patterns to watch for when a potentially volatile situation could erupt. Wargo covered scenarios surrounding active shooters as a result of domestic violence, as well as the importance of addressing the needs of family members during stressful events to reduce mass panic. A "sympathy and sandwich committee" is essential to communicate with the members of the community that will naturally want updates regarding anyone caught in the crossfire of a mass casualty, natural disaster, or active shooter situation.

John Benitz, MD, MPH, medical director of the Tennessee Department of Health for Emergency Preparedness, shared excellent resources for healthcare leaders in terms of financing a disaster plan. He revealed grant opportunities and healthcare coalitions to help pay for improvements for a safer work environment. He also guided the group to the CDC for ultimate best practices for healthcare leaders during a disaster.

The next meeting, scheduled for March 22, will focus on the opioid epidemic. For more information, go online to




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ACHEMT, American College of Healthcare Executives of Middle Tennessee, Chris Clarke, Disaster Preparedness, John Benitz, John Morris, Mass Casualty Event, Michael Wargo, Susan Peach, Tennessee Hospital Association, THA
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