Nurses Not Immune to Stress from Disaster

Jennifer Thew, RN, September 19, 2017

Two reports find that RNs are personally and professionally affected by natural disasters.

Christine T. Kovner, RN, PhD
Christine T. Kovner, RN, PhD

As communities hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma begin the long path to recovery, it's important to remember disasters leave more in their wake than physical damage to homes and property. They also leave marks on victims' psyches.

That includes nurses.

"When both personal life and professional life are impacted by an adverse event, as occurred in Superstorm Sandy, stress can exponentially increase. The responsibilities associated with the profession of nursing add additional demands that increase the risk for role conflict when a disaster occurs," says Victoria H. Raveis, PhD.

Raveis is research professor and director of the Psychosocial Research Unit on Health, Aging and the Community at NYU College of Dentistry.

She, along with colleagues at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and NYU Dentistry, recently published two reports in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship that offer insights on emergency preparedness, recovery, and resilience.

The reports were centered on nurses working at NYU Langone Health's main hospital during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Key themes that emerged were communication—both improving channels and its importance in connecting nurses with others during a crisis—and social support.

Preparedness Training Needed

To understand how nurses at NYU Langone were impacted before, during, and after the storm, the researchers conducted interviews and surveys with 16 nurses who participated in the mid-storm evacuation of more than 300 patients at NYU Langone's 725-bed Tisch Hospital due to high water levels.

Jennifer Thew, RN

Jennifer Thew, RN is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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