Natural or man-made, disasters can be scary, chaotic, and tragic events. Nurses across the country are never off duty when a disaster strikes. The American Nurses Association (ANA) and other organizations are helping to ensure that our nation’s hospitals and the employees who work there are ready to respond to disasters.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen some of the worst hurricanes in decades, as Hurricane Harvey devastated the Gulf Coast of Texas and Hurricane Irma left a similar wake of destruction throughout Florida and much of the Caribbean. As with all natural disasters, nurses have been on the frontlines to help victims who were directly affected.
The Nurse's Call to Action
Disasters can take many shapes and forms. They can occur naturally or be man-made. They can be accidental or acts of terrorism. In general, disasters are classified into the following categories:
A nurse’s duty to care is an ethical component of the nurse-patient relationship from Provision 2 of the ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses which states that “the nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient.”
However, nurses not only have an ethical obligation to care for others, but also to care for themselves. Provision 5 of the Code states that ‘the nurse owes the same duty to self as to others.’
This conflict of obligation can come to a head during times of disaster when nurses are put in the position to provide care to patients in a state of emergency for extended periods of time. During these times of catastrophes, nurses and other health care providers must decide how much high quality care they can provide to others while also taking care of themselves.
The ANA partners with government groups, nongovernment organizations, employers and individual registered nurses to achieve systems, policies, and laws that enable RNs and other providers to respond confidently, and to ensure that the needs of the American public will be met during a disaster.
It is reassuring to know that because of their compassionate nature and the nature of their roles as caregiver, registered nurses are typically willing to respond in disaster situations.
Lippincott NursingCenter has also prepared a collection of resources to help guide your practice while you are working in the affected areas, and will be making these resources free for the next three months.
If you're physically unable to be in Houston, you can still help.
Thinking about being a volunteer responder? The time to register is before a disaster, not during one. Choose a volunteer responder organization that matches your specialty.