You chose nursing as a career most likely because of your innate desire to provide care to people in need. At no time is that caring and compassion more in need than during the response to a natural disaster. By now, we have all seen the devastating impact of Hurricane Florence throughout the Carolinas and Virginia. If that isn’t scary enough, it appears that two more storms are brewing in the Atlantic Ocean. Disaster responders are still dealing with the flooding, but in short order, there will likely be an ongoing call for healthcare professionals to join the relief efforts once power and transportation modes are restored. If you have both the capacity and desire to help, there are things that you can do to join the disaster response efforts. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Don’t just hop in your car or get on a plane to fly into the affected areas! As much as your help is needed, the responding agencies need to know who is coming and what they will be doing once you get there. Fortunately, there are volunteer organizations that can help you register and identify yourself as a nursing professional that is willing and able to join the relief efforts. One such website is National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) which not only allows you to join the organization and receive training on how to respond to a disaster, but it also provides links to other national sites offering additional opportunities.
The best way to approach your desire to help is to sign up before the next disaster strikes. Often times, such as with Hurricane Florence, we know well in advance that the disaster will occur and generally where it will have an impact. This allows governmental agencies an opportunity to mobilize the volunteer effort before the storm making landfall. In the case of Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, websites like Volunteer Registration for North Carolina were set up along with South Carolina, and Virginia to coordinate incoming volunteer efforts. In most of these instances, the Department of Homeland Security is also involved in some capacity.
Another important requirement for nurses to keep in mind if they are interested in disaster response efforts is to make sure all immunizations are current, licensure and certifications are current and available, and any other important documentation is available at a moment’s notice. In times of disasters of this magnitude, there are often emergency travel assignment opportunities that become available. In these cases, anything you would need for a typical travel assignment should be ready and available should the need arise. Please contact your recruiter if you are interested.
Lastly, working as part of a disaster relief effort will present you with challenges beyond anything you might imagine. While there is a great sense of camaraderie and teamwork involved among everyone who has joined the effort, there will be many challenging and stressful situations to overcome. Working in storm-ravaged communities, power outages, working even longer hours, a nurse heading into a disaster zone has to be physically and mentally ready to take on the challenges. Upon completion of the assignment or volunteer effort, you will have earned quite a few key experiences for your resume and future career plans, with the operative phrase being that you will have earned it.
We want to hear from you! Have you ever worked in an area that was hit by a natural or man-made disaster? Share your experiences in the comment section below or tell us about it on our Facebook page.