Leadership and use of standards by Australian disaster medical assistance teams: results of a national survey of team members

Aitken, Peter, Leggat, Peter A., Robertson, Andrew G., Harley, Hazel, Speare, Richard, and Leclercq, Muriel (2012) Leadership and use of standards by Australian disaster medical assistance teams: results of a national survey of team members. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, 27 (2). pp. 142-147.

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION: It is likely that calls for disaster medical assistance teams (DMATs) will continue in response to international disasters.

OBJECTIVE: As part of a national survey, the present study was designed to evaluate leadership issues and use of standards in Australian DMATs.

METHODS: Data was collected via an anonymous mailed survey distributed via State and Territory representatives on the Australian Health Protection Committee, who identified team members associated with Australian DMAT deployments from the 2004 Asian Tsunami disaster.

RESULTS: The response rate for this survey was estimated to be approximately 50% (59/118). Most of the personnel had deployed to the Asian Tsunami affected areas. The DMAT members were quite experienced, with 53% (31/59) of personnel in the 45-55 years of age group. Seventy-five percent (44/59) of the respondents were male. Fifty-eight percent (34/59) of the survey participants had significant experience in international disasters, although few felt they had previous experience in disaster management (5%, 3/59). There was unanimous support for a clear command structure (100%, 59/59), with strong support for leadership training for DMAT commanders (85%, 50/59). However only 34% (20/59) felt that their roles were clearly defined pre-deployment, and 59% (35/59) felt that team members could be identified easily. Leadership was identified by two team members as one of the biggest personal hardships faced during their deployment. While no respondents disagreed with the need for meaningful, evidence-based standards to be developed, only 51% (30/59) stated that indicators of effectiveness were used for the deployment.

CONCLUSIONS: In this study of Australian DMAT members, there was unanimous support for a clear command structure in future deployments, with clearly defined team roles and reporting structures. This should be supported by clear identification of team leaders to assist inter-agency coordination, and by leadership training for DMAT commanders. Members of Australian DMATs would also support the development and implementation of meaningful, evidence-based standards. More work is needed to identify or develop actual standards and the measures of effectiveness to be used, as well as the contents and nature of leadership training.

Item ID: 25316
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1945-1938
Keywords: Australia; disaster; Disaster Medical Assistance Team; DMAT; leadership; measures of effectiveness; medical assistance; Southeast Asia; standard
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2013 01:49
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1199 Other Medical and Health Sciences > 119999 Medical and Health Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 50%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111799 Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920499 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) not elsewhere classified @ 50%
92 HEALTH > 9299 Other Health > 929999 Health not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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