Paula Grainger

PhD candidate

Clinical documentation and tracking processes in a natural disaster – lessons learnt from the adaptations and innovations to practice during the Christchurch February 2011 earthquake

Supervisors: Professor Mary Chiarella and Associate Professor Jenny Fraser


Clinical documentation and effective tracking processes are an integral part of a patient’s journey through the health system. During a disaster situation, these processes come under severe strain and, depending on the nature of the disaster the standard processes, emergency plans and even facilities provided by the organisation may be neither effective nor useable.

Aim of study

The aim of this study is to investigate the plans and provisions for clinical documentation and effective tracking in place at the time of the Christchurch February 2011 earthquake and to establish the actual activities that occurred, exploring the participants’ perspectives of these.
This exploration will examine specifically, but will not be limited to:

  1. A review of the plans, documents, and equipment used during such an event.
  2. Analysis of the level of training and preparation in place for disasters.
  3. Description and exploration of the plan elements and innovations undertaken.
  4. Analysis of the limitations of the plan and innovations.
  5. Comparison with plans and preparation in place in other facilities that have experienced overwhelming casualty events.
  6. Development of future directions for planning

Health organisations commonly have extensive policy, plans, and practice recommendations covering any possible emergency. However, in many organisations these plans are fragmented, under development or even non-existent. In recent years the number of well publicised natural disasters and man-made major events has increased the pressure on organisations to develop these plans and also to hold plans that are similar in nature, given the mobility of the health workforce.
By establishing facilitators and barriers to documentation and effective patient tracking systems this study can contribute to improving each patient’s journey through the health system in a disaster.