In the case of a bioterror attack, Saint Louis University will operate a medication dispensing station for students, faculty, staff and their families, offering quick access to medicines and easing the burden on local health departments so they can serve residents who lack similar access to lifesaving drugs.
This fall, SLU nursing faculty and students received special training to set up and operate a center known as a Closed Point of Dispensing (POD) that will provide medication for members of SLU family if a bioweapon, such as anthrax, tularemia or plague, is unleashed.
Because of their specialized training, after graduation, students will have the opportunity to be part of the Medical Reserve Corps, continuing to offer care and service in time of disaster.
"If there is a bioterrorism incident, we'd have to get medication to the entire community within 48 hours," said Deb Artman, instructor of nursing, who is spearheading the initiative in cooperation with SLU's Institute for Biosecurity.
"Having SLU provide the service internally is efficient because it takes a significant strain off nurses from the city and county health departments who otherwise would provide medicines to our faculty, staff and students and their families. And it also is a convenient way to protect the SLU community."
All undergraduate nursing students are required to take public health nursing, which includes day-long training to establish a Point of Distribution center to dispense medicine. More than 100 received the instruction in November.
"I haven't heard of any other nursing school that put this into their curriculum," Artman said. "Our specialized training speaks to our commitment to service."
A team of SLU employees representing many units collaborated to create the distribution center. They include the Institute for Biosecurity and Disaster Preparedness in SLU's College for Public Health and Social Justice; employee health, student health, public safety, office of the general counsel, human resources, information technology and campus recreation.
The strategies the students and faculty learn also can be applied in case of pandemic, such as the H1N1 flu outbreak in 2009, when sites were opened across the country to give influenza vaccinations, Artman added.