Emily Raisch is the Program Director of the NYC Pediatric Disaster Coalition and Executive Director of the Center for Pediatric Emergency Medicine. She is a member of DRI’s new Young Leaders in Resilience group, and shares with us her thoughts on working in disaster preparedness in healthcare, how that compares to resiliency in the private sector, and how to start out as a young professional in emergency preparedness.
How did you become involved in resilience and its related industries (business continuity, disaster recovery, emergency management, information risk management, etc.)?
While working at NYU, I worked on a few projects involving disaster preparedness in my role as Grant Manager, which led to my current role at the NYC Pediatric Disaster Coalition.
What is your current position?
I’m program director of the New York City Pediatric Disaster Coalition (PDC). We’re a NYC-based coalition working with hospitals and government agencies to improve preparedness for disasters involving pediatric victims.
How would you describe your job to someone who is unfamiliar with the industry?
As head of a small coalition with a pretty sizeable reach, I wear a lot of hats! Our mission is to work with hospitals and government agencies in New York and nationally to improve pediatric disaster preparedness. We assess where new guidelines, planning tools, and subject matter expertise (SME) may be needed and work to fill those gaps. I identify experts in different subject matter areas (i.e. neonatology, long term care) and form expert committees. Working with these groups, we produce tools including best practices, guidelines, and templates for use at individual hospitals or facilities. I manage these processes, write papers and communications to spread the results, and work with individual hospitals to adapt resources to suit them.
What do you consider the greatest advantage of being a resilience professional?
The greatest advantage to working in preparedness and resilience in healthcare is having the opportunity to work with incredibly dedicated providers and systems that truly value and prioritize saving lives and providing the best care possible. In this field, you know that the standards you create can help to improve care for vulnerable populations during disasters.
What do you consider your greatest achievement or milestone as a resilience professional?
I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done creating and implementing guidance and templates for special needs populations including neonatal patients, labor and delivery units, and pediatric intensive care patients. This year, we are creating resources for pediatric long term care facilities – there are no guidelines at all in the U.S. to help prepare this patient population and we’ve already had considerable interest nationwide in our work. We also have a citywide project that I can’t announce yet but which has been years in the works and will be announced soon. Stay tuned!
Why do you consider resilience and its related industries to be significant?
A focus on resilience and disaster preparedness benefits organizations even outside of actual disasters. On a hospital level, for instance, we often bring together different services who don’t get to touch base often, and end up problem solving and improving services and awareness or resources, which benefits the organization as a whole.
What do you consider the most important issues facing professionals new to the resilience fields?
I think that this group is filling a major gap in providing space for young professionals to network and learn about different places this field can take you. I learn so much from my fellow committee members, and think that young professionals will benefit from more of these events.
What advice do you have for those who are interested in joining this field?
As a young professional, network, ask questions, and express interests in projects you hear about. We’ve brought interested young professionals into full scale exercises and other large projects where they have had a chance to observe our organization at work and to network with participants in the industry.
What have been the most important developments in resilience since you’ve entered the field? Why?
For my organization, pediatric preparedness has always been our focus. Therefore, the federal government’s increasing focus on coalitions and on vulnerable populations has been incredibly important, adding impetus to our work. Thanks in part to this support, we have been able to expand our work to reach more healthcare providers.
How is the focus on preparedness different in the healthcare field than in other resiliency fields?
In healthcare, the focus is on patients above all, reducing morbidity and mortality and any disruption of services. Due to federal and state requirements, many clinicians also have a basic understanding of the importance of preparedness and tend to be happy to work with us to improve readiness.
I’m interested in pursuing a career in disaster preparedness and healthcare- where should I start looking?
In NYC, the healthcare field has numerous opportunities for a young resiliency professional. NYC hospitals each have a designated Emergency Preparedness Coordinator handling disaster preparedness at a hospital-specific level. Many government roles are available with organizations such as the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), NYC Emergency Management’s Healthcare division, the CDC, and various coalitions focused on specific geographic and patient populations. There are also a number of NGOs focusing on disaster preparedness and health, including the Red Cross. In general, larger organizations are more likely to have formal training programs, while smaller groups will allow you to learn many different roles at once.