How ready are we for disasters?
Article Type: Editorial
Subject: Nurses (Practice)
Natural disasters (Environmental aspects)
Natural disasters (New Zealand)
Natural disasters (United States)
Author: Wilson, Denise
Pub Date: 04/01/2011
Publication: Name: Nursing Praxis in New Zealand Publisher: Nursing Praxis in New Zealand Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 Nursing Praxis in New Zealand ISSN: 0112-7438
Issue: Date: April, 2011 Source Volume: 27 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Event Code: 200 Management dynamics
Product: Product Code: 8043100 Nurses NAICS Code: 621399 Offices of All Other Miscellaneous Health Practitioners
Geographic: Geographic Scope: New Zealand; United States Geographic Code: 8NEWZ New Zealand; 1USA United States
Accession Number: 276900993
Full Text: I want to begin this Editorial by acknowledging the people of Christchurch and those in Japan, and to pay my sincere sympathy to those who have lost loved ones, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and their homes and workplaces. I also want to acknowledge those nurses who lost their lives in the Christchurch earthquake. To those of you who are in the process of rebuilding your lives; Kia maia, kia toa, kia manawanui (be strong, be brave, be of good heart).

For those of us watching from the outside we can only begin to imagine the terror of the initial earthquakes, of the pain and heartache that goes with losing those we know, of having the treasures that are part of us gone forever, of no longer having any certainty in life, and the realisation that life will never be the same. The recent events are a grim reminder that the power of humankind is no match for the powerful forces of nature.

Nurses play important roles in disasters formally and informally, immediately and during the ongoing recovery people endure after such events. At a Western Pacific and South-East Asian Region Regulatory meeting held in Wellington some time after the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 in the Indian Ocean, two nurses (one from Thailand and one from Bandi Achi) shared with us their experiences of living through the tsunami and disaster preparedness. Having watched the events time after time on the television did not prepare me for what these nurses had to say. While they survived the disaster, the tsunami stripped away even pens and paper--they had nothing to 'work' with. They also shared the tensions they lived with having to keep up their professional persona, all the while not knowing if their family were even alive. They talked about cultural considerations and how this impacted on saving people.

The recent events are a timely reminder for nurses to reflect on how well prepared are they for a disaster such as an earthquake or tsunami--real possibilities for nurses practising in New Zealand. Fung, Lai and Loke (2009) state:

The literature is full of studies about preparing nurses for disasters, and the place of disaster preparedness in nursing curricula. But how well are we prepared? Is this something all registered nurses need to revisit? Danna, Bernard, Schaubhut and Mathews (2010) share their insights as nurses who survived and worked through Hurricane Katrina, highlighting the role nurses play in disasters.

Their experiences illustrate how the role for some nurses continued well after the initial emergency. They also share preparation strategies. Their experiences illustrate how the role for some nurses continued well after the initial emergency, and highlight preparation strategies. We need to listen to the stories of our colleagues who have lived and worked through the disasters of recent times, as it is through their experiences and insights nurses can become better prepared for the unexpected events that have confronted communities here, and around the world. I want to finish by saying on behalf of the Nursing Praxis in New Zealand Editorial Board and staff our thoughts are with our nursing colleagues and the people of Christchurch and Japan in their journeys to rebuild their lives.


Danna, D., Bernard, M., Schaubhut, R., & Mathews, P. (2010). Experiences of nurse leaders surviving Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Nursing & Health Sciences, 12(1), 9-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1442-2018.2009.00497.x

Fung, W. M., Lai, K. Y., & Loke, A. Y. (2009). Nurses' perception of disaster: Implications for disaster nursing curriculum. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 18(22), 3165-3171. doi: 10.1016/j.dmr.2005.04.001

Associate Progessor Denise Wilson


Editor-in-Chief/AUT University
When disasters occur, nurses' active role in caring
   for the victims and those affected is crucial.
   Nurses' effectiveness in responding to and handling
   disastrous happenings in relation to on-site triage,
   emergency care for the victims, supporting and
   protecting others from health hazards; rests on
   how they perceive disaster and its nature (p. 3167).

Nurses are in leadership positions before, during
   and after any disaster. Nurses are called upon to
   report to duty, leaving their loved ones to care for
   themselves while the nurses care for the sick and
   frail in unbelievably difficult situations (p. 9)
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