The attacks on 9/11 caught emergency response personnel off guard. Now, 16 years later, Wendin Gulbransen works to ensure that health professionals are prepared — the focus of her master’s-degree thesis at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis.

A registered nurse working in the emergency department at Kaiser Permanente in South Sacramento, Gulbransen never looked at health care in a crisis situation the same way that people had before 2001. Despite the ongoing efforts over the past decade to provide emergency management leaders with the necessary information and resources for disaster preparedness education and training, the literature suggests that this has yet to be fully accomplished.

Health care emergency preparedness goes mobileMaster’s-degree leadership student Wendin Gulbransen developed a mobile app to improve communication for health care professionals in emergency situations.

“That experience changed everything,” Gulbransen said. “When the dust settled, I felt the urge to improve how health care professionals communicate in a manmade or natural disaster.”

For her thesis project, she transformed the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS) for Healthcare Providers protocols that typically live in binders to a mobile iPhone app designed to better implement response and improve communication.

“My aim was to create a way that, in a matter of minutes, would enable health care professionals could reach into their pocket and access information to help them lead, guide and direct response to an overwhelming event that affects their hospital or community,” Gulbransen said. “The app needed to be easy to follow and engaging.”

“Wendin’s work demonstrates how innovative technology enhances expertise and promises to remove an obstacle to that impedes quality care in an emergency situation,” said Amy Nichols, associate clinical professor and Gulbransen’s thesis adviser. “With the initiative she demonstrated to move outside her comfort zone to tackle a health care challenge, she exemplifies the transformative leaders we hope to develop at the School of Nursing.”

Gulbransen admits the project challenged her skills, because her expertise is in nursing, not coding. However, she persevered and the result is a proactive preparedness tool that promises to help reduce the gap seen in knowledge and training deficits in emergency management.  

“I am proud that I was able to produce the project that I had in mind for so many years,” Gulbransen said. “I am so grateful for my experience at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. This program opened my eyes to different ways of leadership and inspires me to encourage others among my coworkers and within my community to be leaders.”

Health Care Emergency Preparedness Goes Mobile: UC Davis Nursing Student Thesis