Practice Makes Perfect – Drills with the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit

The Nebraska Biocontainment Unit (NBU) is one of ten Regional Ebola and other Special Pathogen Treatment Centers (RESPTC) in the United States that has the capacity to care for patients with a highly hazardous communicable disease. As part of ongoing preparedness efforts the NBU coordinated a 2 day exercise on October 12 & 13, 2017 that included county and state public health officials, the Nebraska Public Health Lab, Midwest Medical Transport, Omaha Fire Department, CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center Bergan Mercy and Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, the UNMC rapid response institutional review board and multiple supporting ancillary departments within Nebraska Medicine.

In this recent exercise, the NBU tested multiple processes including the transfer of patients from local assessment hospitals, admitting both an adult and a pediatric patient into the NBU and activating the rapid response IRB for protocol review as well as the administration of a recognized experimental medication for Ebola virus disease. Once both of the simulated patients’ had been admitted, the NBU team comprised of physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, and patient care technicians completed 6 hours of care interventions using established NBU protocols. The emphasis during this full scale exercise was on optimizing care coordination for two patients who required multiple interventions. These interventions included obtaining labs, containing body fluid spills, and the administration of an experimental drug therapy which required obtaining informed consent by the appropriate physicians.

The focus of the exercises conducted in the NBU is to enhance practices that will provide safe and effective patient care while providing optimal protection for the providers. The staff members that comprise the NBU team are dedicated professionals who seek to advance preparedness for highly hazardous communicable diseases. The NBU continually strives to advance these efforts by routinely holding structured trainings and coordinating exercises to test protocols and incorporating best practices.


Dr. Angela Hewlett and Dr. Ted Cieslak obtain informed consent for an experimental medication.

Dr. Angela Hewlett communicates with Kate Boulter, Nurse Manager, NBU.

Dr. Angela Hewlett observes Dr. Jim Sullivan preparing to place a central line in the NBU simulator.

Photo Credit: Taylor Wilson, Nebraska Medicine and Jeff Peters, RN, Nebraska Medicine Bellevue

Written content courtesy of Angela Vasa and Dr. Angela Hewlett.

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