Providing nursing care can be challenging and stressful at the best of times. However, when a disaster strikes, the challenges multiply and require nurses to identify priorities and quickly change care provision. Although many nursing programs include some disaster and emergency-preparedness training in their curricula, it is rare to have an entire course devoted to the topic.
Given Louisiana’s vulnerability to natural catastrophes, UL Lafayette offers Nursing in a Disaster for RN to BSN in its Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program. Completing this course prepares the state’s nurses to meet unique job demands.
During a natural disaster, a nurse may have many different responsibilities and may be required to:
- Provide Care for Their Family
It can be easy to forget that nurses have families to care for. At times their family’s safety and well-being is compromised at home, making it difficult for them to focus on providing nursing care. Therefore, when nurses prioritize personal and family safety in a natural disaster, they can then turn their attention to helping others.
- Triage Patients
Triaging casualties is an important skill when limited staff must care for a sudden influx of patients.
Depending on the severity and type of natural disaster, there may be a spike in the number of casualties and fatalities. Nurses who are working as volunteers or serving a shift in a hospital may be required to assist with admitting and caring for patients with a variety of injuries and needs.
- Provide First Aid, Often With Limited Supplies
Nurses may be required to provide first aid when volunteering, nursing at a hospital facing a rush of casualties, or even providing first aid to their own family and neighbors. Reviewing and understanding how to apply first aid during a natural disaster often requires creativity and improvisation, particularly if medical supplies are limited or unavailable.
- Assess Mental Health Needs
The trauma that results from a natural disaster can take a toll on everyone. Nurses require special skills to be able to assess casualties, first responders, family members and even co-workers. Assessing and monitoring individuals for shock, confusion, and risk of self-harm are important nursing skills to help identify those whose mental health may be jeopardizing their safety.
- Assist With Medical Evacuation
If the medical facility is threatened during a natural disaster, a nurse may be required to assist in the evacuation of patients. Triage and leadership skills are crucial for assigning roles and tasks to other members of the nursing team.
- Continue Providing Regular Patient Care
While it can be easy to focus on the casualties in a natural disaster, nurses also need to keep in mind the other patients assigned to their care. These patients have ongoing medical needs and may become unstable and require intervention as well, so they must continue to be safely cared for.
- Work With Limited Human Resources
Depending on the geographic location, type of disaster, and population affected, nurses may find themselves working with other overstretched healthcare personnel. In such situations, triage skills, coordination and proper allocation of medical supplies become more crucial than ever.
- Care for Their Own Mental Health Needs
Nursing in a disaster is stressful in and of itself. Compounding the stress for nurses are worries about their families and possibly their own safety. Nurses need to be aware of the impact of these situations on their mental health. Finding ways to relieve stress and take care of themselves is important for their own well-being.
Caring for patients during and after a natural disaster can be challenging for even the most experienced and skilled nurse. The Nursing in a Disaster course in the online RN to BSN program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette equips nurses with essential skills for handling emergencies when they arise.
Learn more about the UL Lafayette online RN to BSN program.