Travel Nurses: Dealing with Emergencies & Disasters


You can't help others if you don't keep yourself safe

By Nanette Wiser, contributor

If you’re a first responder during a man-made or weather-related crisis, the prime directive is to care for affected citizens AND stay safe. In 2015, there were 355 U.S. emergencies ranging from mass shootings to natural disasters and the recent mass shooting in Orlando highlighted the need for travel nurses to thoroughly understand their facility’s response plan each time they start a new travel nursing assignment.

Be Prepared: Permanent staff often have the luxury of training and fake simulations to prepare for calamities either in their community or at the hospital. In addition, they know the drill in case of an earthquake (California), tornado (Oklahoma, Kansas), mudslides and wildfires…but travel nurses need to bone up on the necessary precautions to take wherever they go.

Here are some tips about what you need to know to stay safe during emergencies:

1. Active Onsite Shooter: Know your hospital’s security plan for an onsite active shooter and learn what you can do in this situation.
•    Be prepared in advance to calm hysterical patients and protect them.
•    Review your hospital’s plans and know when to hide, run or fight.
•    Know the safe rooms and how to keep them that way. In a recent university shooting, students used belts and furniture to blockade doors and secure rooms.
•    Learn the specific communication skills to calm angry people to avoid escalating situations.
•    Follow police responders’ directions.

2. Terrorism: When a shooting or bombing occurs, you’ll need to rely on your hospital’s protocol so you can respond quickly. This is why knowing the processes and procedures in advance is so important. Too often, terrorists plant secondary incendiary devices directed at first responders, so safety and intervention go hand in hand in these situations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have valuable and detailed guidelines on preparedness in cases of bioterrorism, chemical or radiation emergencies, bombings, and mass shootings.

Read more on healthcare organizations’ protocol and their response to community crisis from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

3. Weather-Related Disasters: During New Orleans Hurricane Katrina, the HCA hospital staff proved exemplary in keeping patients safe, thanks to pre-planning and airlifting patients out of Tulane University Hospital.

While it’s unlikely you’ll get caught in a hurricane of this magnitude during your travels, it’s always important to be prepared--especially when you’re out on the road.

If you’re driving, make sure your car is the best possible condition. Keep an emergency kit in your car, along with blankets, food and water, in case you become stranded. And NEVER drive on a flooded road.

According to The Weather Channel:

1.    Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control and potential stalling.
2.    A foot of water will float many vehicles.
3.    Two feet of rushing water will carry away most vehicles, including SUVs and pickups.

Never take any unnecessary risks, no matter how confident you are of your car or your driving skills.

Nurses have been a part of disaster preparedness and response as long as nurses have existed. If you are a travel nurse, make it a priority to read over and fully understand the clinic or hospital response plan. Be sure to ask questions if you aren’t clear about any plans or processes. And above all, stay vigilant about your own safety wherever you go.

If you’d like to know more about a travel nursing career, visit the NursesRx page: Why Choose a Travel Nursing Career.

© 2016. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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