Introduction: Emergency departments (ED) are on the front line for treating victims of multi-casualty incidents. The primary objective of this study was to gather and detail the common experiences from those hospital-based health professionals directly involved in the response to the San Bernardino terrorism attack on December 2, 2015. Secondary objectives included gathering information on experiences participants found were best practices.
Methods: We undertook a qualitative study using Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research (COREQ) guidelines by performing semi-structured interviews with physicians, nurses, and incident management staff from multiple institutions responding to the San Bernardino terrorist attack. We coded transcripts using qualitative analysis techniques and we delineated and agreed upon a refined list with code definitions using a negotiated group process. Final themes were developed and analyzed.
Results: A total of 26 interviews were completed; 1172 excerpts were coded and categorized into 66 initial themes. Six final categories of communication, training, unexpected help, process bypassed, personal impact/emotions, and practical advice resulted.
Conclusion: Our study provides context regarding the response of healthcare personnel from multiple institutions to a singular terrorist attack in the United States. It elucidates several themes to help other institutions prepare for similar events. Understanding these common experiences provides opportunity to prepare for future incidents and develop questions to study in future events.