Disaster Preparedness for Nursing Homes

Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Science



Department or Program Chair

Barbara Ganley, PhD

Thesis Advisor

Luanne Linnard-Palmer, EdD, RN


The need for disaster preparedness today is of paramount importance to all, especially those in healthcare. The elderly are at a greater risk of suffering adverse effects from disasters than other populations. Frequently, these vulnerable elderly reside in nursing homes. Nursing homes are often overlooked as a health resource, and are usually not incorporated into their community’s disaster plans. However, it is crucial that nursing homes are thoroughly prepared not only to care for their residents, but to support the community in case of a disaster.

The framework for this study is Neuman’s System Model. This model is a total person approach to patient problems. It represents the individual within a system perspective; physiological, psychological, developmental, sociological, and spiritual in relation to environmental influences.

This is a qualitative, descriptive study of the perceptions of long-term care nurses about disaster preparedness. The study incorporated standardized open-ended questions, delivered in a face-to-face interview. These were 10 questions to guide the nurses in exploring the multi-faceted challenges of preparing nursing homes for disasters. A total of 8 nursing directors were interviewed in the setting of their own facilities.

The findings suggest that nursing homes have not fully developed their emergency response plans to include pandemic flu or detailed evacuation procedures, and community partnerships to enhance their ability to respond to a full-scale disaster need to be established. Additional findings suggest that nursing home staff might benefit from training to distinguish the difference between medical triage and disaster triage. Long-term care nurses are dedicated to continuing their disaster preparedness efforts, and are devoted to the residents they serve. Further study is needed to develop training programs that are specific for long-term care facilities, and strategies to guide them in becoming involved with local emergency response partners.