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Nurse Advocacy: How to Assist During a Tragedy


Assist During a Tragedy | Ameritech

When tragedy dominates the headlines, it’s easy to feel useless, helpless, and afraid. Nurses and other healthcare professionals may feel the added weight of responsibility. Since tragedy takes so many forms and comes upon us unexpectedly, it can be hard to know where to start preparing. But a few smart moves can put you in a position to take charge and be the leader your community will need. Here are some steps you can take now to help lead the people around you toward a positive outcome when disaster hits close to home.

Before disaster strikes

Most people should have a basic level of preparedness that includes, for example, extra food and water; but nurses and other healthcare professionals have the added responsibility of caring for others during a time of crisis.

Know your rights

First, determine what your legal rights and responsibilities are, depending on your certification. These may vary from state to state; you may be obligated to provide aid, and you may or may not have legal protections. The American Nurses Association has good documentation on how to find out where you stand.

Related resource: How to Spot a Nurse: 5 Ways Nursing Translates to Daily Life

Volunteer in advance

The best response to tragedy is to prepare beforehand, and one of the best ways healthcare professionals can get ready is to put a network in place now.

Consider registering as a volunteer emergency responder. The American Red Cross, FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Teams, and the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals are all great organizations with long histories of organizing support for disaster situations. During a tragedy, many people want to join aid organizations to help; however, many don’t realize that it’s best to register, train, and prepare with the organization before disaster strikes, not after.

When considering organizations, choose one that fits your preferred level of involvement. If you are solely responsible for children, for example, or have a job that requires your presence, you may not have the ability to travel for extended periods of time. When registering as an emergency responder, be sure to ask for a realistic description of the commitment.

Take a martial arts class

It’s not the first thing that comes to mind, but martial arts provides a great opportunity for nurses to learn mindfulness when interacting with their surroundings. Martial arts teach temperament, awareness, self-control, reflex control, concentration, physical strength, and a host of other qualities that are very useful during a tragedy.

Related resource: Keep Your Cool: 5 Tips for New Nurses in an Emergency Situation

Keep your certifications current

Make sure your CPR certification is up to date. Do you have any other certifications? If they’re not current, you may risk liability or legal repercussions if something goes wrong — not to mention, staying current on certifications keeps your skills sharp!

Have supplies on hand

Make an emergency medical kit and keep it in your car. The Mayo Clinic offers a practical, comprehensive supply list that goes beyond adhesive bandages, including the following:

  • Aluminum finger splint
  • Instant cold packs
  • Cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs
  • Disposable latex-free examination gloves
  • Scissors and tweezers
  • Soap or hand sanitizer
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic solution and towelettes

During an emergency situation

Tragedy strikes. People may be injured or even dying. Many people will react with panic, and others may ignore the situation by assuming someone else is already helping or is in charge (also known as the bystander effect). But as a nurse, you have an opportunity, even a responsibility, to be a leader. Four general steps can help guide thoughtful action during an emergency:

  • Make sure you’re safe. If you get hurt yourself, you can’t help anyone.
  • Assess the situation. Is the event still occurring? Try to get a feel for the exact nature of the danger.
  • Get help. Designate someone specifically to call 911, if appropriate.
  • Evaluate the environment. Do you know how to work with kids? Do you know how to run an IV? Are you good at
  • commanding crowds? Are you familiar with the territory? Examine your own skill set to figure out how you can be the
  • most helpful.
  • Assist the injured. If you’re comfortable doing, help triage.

Related resource: Wound Care Nursing: Everything You Need to Know

Nurses know that caring for others during their darkest moments is a privilege. During times of tragedy and disaster, the need for loving, competent care is greater than ever. Taking steps to prepare for emergencies enables you to exercise that privilege and help people who need it most.

At Ameritech, we’re very proud of our nursing program and all our students who go on to become compassionate leaders in the healthcare field.

Visit our website to learn more about our nursing program.