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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Characterizing hospital workers' willingness to report to duty in an influenza pandemic through threat- and efficacy-based assessment

Ran D Balicer1*, Daniel J Barnett234, Carol B Thompson5, Edbert B Hsu67, Christina L Catlett67, Christopher M Watson89, Natalie L Semon24, Howard S Gwon10 and Jonathan M Links2347

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel

2 Johns Hopkins Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

3 Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

4 Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

5 Department of Biostatistics, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

6 Department of Emergency Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

7 Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

8 Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

9 Department of Pediatrics, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

10 Office of Emergency Management, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:436  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-436

Published: 26 July 2010

Abstract

Background

Hospital-based providers' willingness to report to work during an influenza pandemic is a critical yet under-studied phenomenon. Witte's Extended Parallel Process Model (EPPM) has been shown to be useful for understanding adaptive behavior of public health workers to an unknown risk, and thus offers a framework for examining scenario-specific willingness to respond among hospital staff.

Methods

We administered an anonymous online EPPM-based survey about attitudes/beliefs toward emergency response, to all 18,612 employees of the Johns Hopkins Hospital from January to March 2009. Surveys were completed by 3426 employees (18.4%), approximately one third of whom were health professionals.

Results

Demographic and professional distribution of respondents was similar to all hospital staff. Overall, more than one-in-four (28%) hospital workers indicated they were not willing to respond to an influenza pandemic scenario if asked but not required to do so. Only an additional 10% were willing if required. One-third (32%) of participants reported they would be unwilling to respond in the event of a more severe pandemic influenza scenario. These response rates were consistent across different departments, and were one-third lower among nurses as compared with physicians. Respondents who were hesitant to agree to work additional hours when required were 17 times less likely to respond during a pandemic if asked. Sixty percent of the workers perceived their peers as likely to report to work in such an emergency, and were ten times more likely than others to do so themselves. Hospital employees with a perception of high efficacy had 5.8 times higher declared rates of willingness to respond to an influenza pandemic.

Conclusions

Significant gaps exist in hospital workers' willingness to respond, and the EPPM is a useful framework to assess these gaps. Several attitudinal indicators can help to identify hospital employees unlikely to respond. The findings point to certain hospital-based communication and training strategies to boost employees' response willingness, including promoting pre-event plans for home-based dependents; ensuring adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, vaccines and antiviral drugs for all hospital employees; and establishing a subjective norm of awareness and preparedness.