Lending a Helping Hand: 5 Responsibilities of a Nurse in a Natural Disaster



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Nurses work every day to give compassionate care to their patients. But when a natural disaster strikes, the duties of a nurse are expanded beyond the workplace. Nurses often heed the call to help, whether the catastrophe is at home or far away. During Hurricane Harvey, the Texas Board of Nursing issued more than 600 temporary licenses. With the devastation that has hit Puerto Rico with Hurricane Maria, more than 300 health care workers have been sent to the area to help.

At work, a nurse’s duties are clear. But what are their responsibilities when disaster strikes? Nurses take a pledge to help the sick in their community, and it’s important to understand what to do before a disaster and be prepared to act. Whether the need is at home or across the country, at a hospital or in the streets, here are five issues nurses face when serving during a natural disaster:

1. Volunteering in an emergency

Volunteering during a natural disaster can be different from state to state. Utah, for example, has a Disaster Medical Assistance Team that can be deployed in an emergency to assist with medical needs in the affected region.

Each state may also have different licensing laws for nurses traveling to help with the disaster response. After Hurricane Harvey, Texas gave out hundreds of temporary licenses to out-of-state workers, but the state’s law also allowed any nurse with a license in good standing in their home state to respond to the crisis.

Whether a nurse is volunteering in their state or elsewhere, it is important to check on the licensing laws first.

2. Caring for sick and wounded at a hospital

Although a hospital is the best place for injured and ill people to seek treatment, it may have a host of issues during a natural disaster. From power outages to…