Preparedness 101: Establishing a Core Curriculum for the Next Generation of Local Health Department Preparedness Workers

map_mediumPreparedness coordinators new to their roles and new to the field of public health preparedness face a tremendous learning curve when they first start their jobs: they have multiple enormous federal guidance documents to review, thousands of pages of existing health department plans to read, laws and regulations from local, state, and federal governments to learn, and annual grant and funding requirements to meet.

Other professional fields offer training programs to establish baseline competencies and common knowledge: new police recruits attend academies, recently enlisted service members go to boot camp, and new doctors go on rotations. But what do new local health department preparedness coordinators do in order to build the competencies and skills they need to successfully perform their job functions? NACCHO is offering a solution in the form of the New Preparedness Coordinators Training and Mentoring Program.

NACCHO held the program’s inaugural workshop during the 2015 Preparedness Summit in Atlanta. The all-day workshop, designed for people new to their role as a local public health preparedness coordinator, had three main goals:

  • Provide an overview of the public health preparedness landscape, including key federal guidance, relevant policies and regulations, and essential partners to engage;
  • Deliver a curriculum designed to help coordinators more rapidly adjust to their new roles through the provision of specifically-tailored resources and individualized action and learning plans; and
  • Establish a network of local emergency preparedness coordinators by pairing new coordinators with mentors and assembling participants in teams to encourage collaboration and learning after the workshop.

NACCHO selected 36 local health department preparedness coordinators from 17 different states to be part of the program’s freshman class. And while geographic demographics are diverse, ranging from very rural towns to major metropolitan hubs, the vast majority of selected coordinators had less than two years of experience in their roles.

Nine mentors were selected to lead workshop activities throughout the day. Like the program’s participants, mentors came from a wide variety of states, and represented both small and large jurisdictions. Unlike participants, mentors had at least five years of public health preparedness experience and wisdom under their belts.

Preliminary workshop feedback was resoundingly positive; both participants and mentors alike saw great value in the course content and access to a network of preparedness peers.

In addition to the workshop, pilot year participants will take part in at least two virtual learning opportunities during the next several months. Participants will also work toward the completion of personal learning and development goals established with the help of their mentors and NACCHO staff.

NACCHO hopes to continue this program into future years to allow for additional classes of new preparedness coordinators to participate. If continued, a call for mentor and participant applicants will go out in fall 2015. If you would like to know more about the program or receive updates on future iterations of this program, please contact Raymond Puerini.

About Raymond Puerini

Raymond Puerini, MPH, is a Senior Program Analyst on the Environmental Health, Pandemic Preparedness, and Catastrophic Response team at NACCHO. His work includes sharing best practices for the distribution and dispensing of medical countermeasures and developing policy and guidance to support strategic national stockpile responses. Twitter: @Are_You_Ray_Dy

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