The Emotional Well-Being of Nurses and Nurse Leaders in Crisis
In a world after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Sandy Hook, plenty of literature has emerged on the subject of disaster management, but little is specific to the emotional well-being of the health care staff dedicated to serve during a crisis. Disasters, whether natural or man-made, are episodic but becoming more frequent. Nurses may find themselves in hospitals affected by a disaster, awaiting a surge of patients while supplied with only limited resources. Or, they may be deployed to austere environments where they are challenged to operate clinics, surrounded by the rubble of an earthquake. In these situations, nurse leaders need to ensure that staff members are trained to be effective disaster health care resources before crises occur. Training includes education on what nurses may observe, how they will be utilized in an emergency situation, and how they can best handle a chaotic environment, both during and after the event, in a manner that will help them keep their emotions in balance. Training before a disaster will help nurse responders develop a plan for their personal responsibilities so they can focus on the mission. The time to start training is not when the disater occurs. In a chaotic environment, most nurses will not have the necessary reserves to begin learning new concepts. Prepared nurses and their leaders must be ready to use their training prior to any crisis. They need to be able to assess that their colleagues are not suffering because of lack of sleep, food, or emotional support. Even after a disaster has initially been resolved, and nurse responders have returned to their families, nurse leaders need to follow up with their team. It may actually be during the postcrisis period that nurse responders need the most emotional support.