Disaster Relief Nursing 101
Marijke Durning | NursingLink
What the ARC looks for.
Every type of nursing requires a specific skill set. Experience as a nurse is a big help, but even student nurses are welcome to join in. The ARC has outreach programs to encourage students to volunteer, hoping that this will give them the encouragement to look at volunteering down the road as well.
For nurses who are interested in being part of the ARC, “We’re looking for nurses with very strong generic fundamental nursing skills,” said Dr. Stanley. “We’re looking for people who are comfortable working in the community environment.” This part is essential, she stressed, because when the ARC responds to a need, they work with a vast array of community partners. For this reason, the nurses also have to be able to work in a team.
Other traits the ARC looks for include nurses who are creative at coming up with solutions and problem solving. “You won’t always have all the resources you need on hand,” said Dr. Stanley. Nurses also should have strong analytical and assessment skills.
Patty arrived in Haiti six weeks after the initial earthquake hit. “The news [tugged] at my heart,” she said. She knew she wanted to go and help. But it wasn’t easy. “Previous missions helped me understand certain things and the way people lived, “ she said. “But it did not prepare me for the disaster I was about to see or experience in Haiti.”
What struck Patty the most was the living conditions and how happy they were when they were given the simple things in life, such as food and water.
With only a week in Haiti, Patty felt as if she hadn’t done enough. “At first it felt like I was making a difference,” she said. “As the days progressed, it felt like I was trying to stop a flood with my finger. Less and less resources were available and I thought the exact opposite was supposed to be happening.”
Despite this feeling though, Patty hasn’t been soured on helping others. Although she has no formal disaster training, she hopes to take a course later this year. As for her future plans? Next stop, Peru!
Disaster relief nursing is an essential field, filled primarily with volunteers. Providing medical aid and attention in catastrophic situations is what nursing is all about. While it does require exceptional skills and being able to think quickly on your feet, there is helping victims of a disaster is a rewarding feeling in itself.