In April, NWHRN joined other healthcare coalitions (HCCs) to participate in a facilitated tabletop exercise (TTX) organized by the Western Regional Alliance for Pediatric Emergency Management (WRAP-EM). This was a unique national opportunity for multiple HCCs to collaborate on a common exercise and scenario.

WRAP-EM developed the basic exercise scenario based on a chemical exposure incident, but each of the participating HCCs tailored it to their geographic needs and specific objectives and discussed their Coalition Chemical Surge Annex in separate rooms. After each breakout session, the more than 40 participants gathered to share highlights from their group discussions.

Value in collaboration

Vicki Sakata, MD, NWHRN Senior Medical Advisor, led the NWHRN breakout sessions with local partners, assisted by other team members and colleagues who managed logistics, technical difficulties, recorded notes and served as evaluators.

Participants recognized the value of working the scenario as individual HCCs, but pointed out the added benefit of hearing how other jurisdictions and states approached their response to the same situation. Another key takeaway was that when an emergency affects children, the clinical response requires pediatric expertise to manage young patients properly. Read the NWHRN Pediatric Surge Annex for more information about the foundational pediatric readiness concepts.

This exercise offered numerous benefits to HCCs, such as exchanging ideas, challenges, and best practice solutions with fellow professionals, strengthening relationships, and fulfilling HPP.

Barbara Jensen, RN, TCRN CHEP, Manager Trauma Services and Forensic Nurse Examiner Team, Evergreen Health, shares her takeaways from this exercise and reflects on the value of being part of the Network in our new Q&A series, In Five. In Five offers first-person insights into our work.

  1. Through your lens at Evergreen Health, can you recap the recent Chem TTX with WRAP-EM?

As a Level III Adult Trauma Center with a small pediatric unit, the exercise presented an opportunity for our pediatric department leaders to engage in and understand how an incident of this type and magnitude would be managed and the role of Evergreen Health in the response. A response to a chemical incident of this scope is challenging at best, and the pediatric victims create an additional complexity both from a resource standpoint as well as a training and regional capability perspective.

  1. What is the value of collaborative work like this TTX for our regional healthcare system?

No healthcare facility will operate in a vacuum during a widespread emergency. The healthcare Covid experience amply demonstrated the necessity and value of partnerships and collaboration across the healthcare spectrum. 

Bringing multiple healthcare facilities from several states to the same table was an outstanding experience. It provided an opportunity to better understand the value of knowing your partners before an emergency occurs. Understanding our local and regional capabilities and how collaboration can enhance those capabilities is invaluable.

  1. What about the Coalition’s work in creating collaborative experiences, like this exercise, is vital for communities throughout the state to understand?

During an emergency, the healthcare system, including hospitals, clinics, EMS, and ambulance services, will be called upon to surge, perhaps exceeding all available resources to care for those in need. 

Participating in a strong healthcare coalition creates partnerships that ensure emergency responses can occur in a coordinated fashion, making the most of available resources. 

By participating in regional exercises, healthcare facilities can practice skills that may be utilized infrequently and assess their capabilities. Exercises provide facilities with the opportunity to develop plans to mitigate any identified gaps in their response and collaborate and learn from one another. A strong coalition of all agencies involved in providing healthcare in an emergency ensures that our communities are supported during an emergency, whether local, regional, or national.

  1. More broadly, could you offer thoughts about your experience working with NWHRN? 

Since its inception, I have been privileged to be a part of the NWHRN, from the King County Healthcare Coalition to the current NWHRN, which leads different regional and statewide collaboration and coordination. We have successfully engaged healthcare agencies in developing a cohesive, engaged network of thinkers who have taken regional healthcare response to a new level. It was no surprise to me that the King County Healthcare Coalition became the model for the development of healthcare coalitions throughout the country. The resources developed and provided to hospital leaders have been invaluable and supported facilities in developing emergency management programs.

  1. How is NWHRN making a difference throughout our healthcare system?

NWHRN makes a difference in many ways. One of the most valuable is its ability to bring people from all aspects of healthcare together and develop common goals. 

The consistently shared, “you are not alone” message from the Network is invaluable, especially to smaller facilities that may not have the expertise and resources to be successful without support. 

During COVID-19, the Network was a significant voice at the government level, advocating for the urgent needs of healthcare. The variety of committees hosted by the Network that address issues and collaborate to set common goals and find solutions are invaluable. I have been grateful for the opportunity to participate and benefit from all the Network offers.