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How Nurses Can Make a Difference in a Disaster

A disaster can strike at any time. The skills nurses learn in a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program can improve the care they provide to patients in an emergency situation. Nurses must stay up to date regarding strategies and guidelines for how to react to catastrophic events so they are ready to step in and competently perform their duties.

How Are Disasters Categorized in the Healthcare Industry?

Throughout the healthcare industry, facilities categorize disasters as internal or external events that warrant different plans of action. Some calamities are classified as both internal and external events. They are severe weather events and natural disasters such as:

  • Earthquakes
  • Floods
  • Hurricanes
  • Tornados
  • Wildfires

What Are Considered Internal Disasters?

Internal disasters are events that happen inside a healthcare facility with the potential to harm patients, staff and visitors. The following are examples of internal disasters:

  • Explosions and bomb threats
  • Fires
  • Power outages
  • Radiation contamination
  • Violent attacks

What Types of Events Are External Disasters?

External disasters are cataclysmic events that result in a large number of injuries and fatalities in a community. For instance, the following are examples of external disasters:

  • Accident
  • Acts of terrorism and bioterrorism
  • Airplane crash
  • Chemical spill
  • Train derailment
  • Mass shooting

What Is the Role of a Nurse in a Disaster?

The role of a nurse in a disaster should be planned before a disaster takes place. When a disaster occurs, a nurse may not be at work. Nurses who are at home should ensure that they can to travel to work without endangering themselves. Sometimes nurses themselves are victims of a disaster and may not be able to respond.

Conversely, nurses who can report to their healthcare facility should get there as soon as possible. Nurses who are at their workplace need to perform their distinct roles for handling patients during a disaster. This may have to:

  • Triage patients
  • Deliver patient care
  • Discharge patients or transfer them to another unit or facility
  • Rescue patients in danger from an internal disaster
  • Lead and direct patients and staff if necessary

What Preparation Do Nurses Need to Make for a Disaster?

The healthcare facility where nurses work should have an emergency response plan. Nurses need to be knowledgeable about the policies and procedures they are required to follow in case of a disaster. This prepares them for their roles and responsibilities before a disaster occurs. In addition, nurses should be aware of code names for disasters and emergencies so they know how to act according to the specific event.

What Organizations Can Nurses Join to Help Communities?

Nurses who want to help communities devastated by natural and manmade disasters in the United States and abroad can volunteer their services. Here are just a few organizations they can contact to prepare:

In the moment of crisis, patients can rely on nurses to assist them, continue to deliver care and do everything in their power to keep them safe. Once a disaster is over, nurses are still needed to help patients and communities recover. Nurses not only aid patients but they can also lend support to other healthcare providers who are dealing with the after effects of disasters. To alleviate the strain people in affected areas may experience, nurses can contribute their nursing expertise. They can provide care at the site of a disaster, conduct blood drives and step in to work at understaffed healthcare facilities.

Learn more about EIU's online RN to BSN program.


Advance Healthcare Network: Tips for Emergency Preparedness

NursingCenter: Disaster Relief Nursing & Emergency Preparedness

Medical Reserve Corps: About Volunteering Emergency Response Plans: NCLEX-RN

Daily Nurse: Lending a Helping Hand: 5 Responsibilities of a Nurse in a Natural Disaster

American Mobile: Disaster Nursing: 6 Ways Nurses Can Help After Disasters

World Vision: Nepal Earthquake Response

American Red Cross: Volunteer Opportunities

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