Disaster Preparedness Essay

2244 WordsOct 16, 20139 Pages
Information and analysis on topics affecting nurses, the profession and health care. ANA ISSUE BRIEF Ethics, the law, and a nurse’s duty to respond in a disaster When disaster strikes, nurses are needed Registered nurses have consistently shown to be reliable responders, and their compassionate nature typically compels them to respond to those in need, even when it puts their own safety or well-being at risk. But do registered nurses have a “duty” to answer a call to help in disaster situations? Do they have an ethical obligation to respond? Can the law require them to respond? Registered nurses, especially those in non-emergency response functions, may find themselves in a difficult predicament. They are called upon to respond in times of mass casualty—such as a catastrophic weather event—or when the nature of their work puts them at risk for exposure—such as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. It is reassuring to know that because of their compassionate nature and ingrained desire to help others, registered nurses are typically willing to respond. The outpouring of nurse volunteers in the wake of the Haiti earthquake disaster is evidence of this. But many other registered nurses struggle with the call to respond. This is especially true if she feels physically unsafe in the response situation, if there is inadequate support for meeting her family’s needs, and she is concerned that they will not have professional ethical and legal protection for nursing care in a crisis situation. These concerns faced by nurses represent a gap in our nation’s disaster preparedness and response systems. Critical questions remain unanswered as to what the registered nurse’s duty to respond is, especially if called upon to serve in a nontraditional role, and what expectations the registered nurse should have for physical, emotional, and legal protections. Resolving these problems would

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