Irwin, the vice president of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center and the administrator of Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Hospital in Knoxville, Tenn., took the Healthcare Leadership for Mass Casualty Incidents and participated in the Integrated Capstone Event in September.Irwin’s hospital is part of Covenant Health, a healthcare system that includes nine acute-care hospitals and more than 10,000 employees that provides healthcare for more than 20 counties across Tennessee. She, along with nine others from Covenant Health, spent Monday through Thursday in the HCL class, a course that exposes healthcare professionals to the dynamics involved in the decision-making processes during an all-hazards disaster involving mass casualties. The course uses a combination of lecture and exercises to provide responders and receivers foundational information on which to base critical decisions during the fast-paced final exercise.

“I believe that a disaster affecting a community is not an ‘if it happens’ but ‘when it happens,’ said Irwin, a key leader in a 500-plus bed hospital. “I am a firm believer that regular and ongoing disaster response drills are critical to maintaining continuous readiness for these types of situations. And treat the drill like the real thing! The key to an effective response is a team of individuals who are trained, confident and who have full trust in the other members of the team to execute the plan in the most effective way possible.”

Irwin was able to continue to build those trusting relationships during her training. In addition to her colleagues from Covenant, she was also joined by 20 other members of the Knox/East Tennessee Healthcare Coalition who attended CDP training that week.