Nurses Volunteering for Natural Disaster Response
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. Any time disaster strikes, like the recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida, volunteer organizations, and government agencies scramble to find qualified nurses and other healthcare professionals to help respond to the relief efforts. If you are finding yourself with both the capacity and the desire to help, there is much 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 the recent hurricanes, we know well in advance that the disaster will occur and where it will have the most impact. This allows governmental agencies an opportunity to mobilize the volunteer effort before the storm making landfall. In the case of Hurricane Irma in Florida, Volunteer Florida is a website that was set up in conjunction with the Red Cross to coordinate 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 disaster, 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.
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, without power in many areas, working even longer hours, to mention just a few, 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, but the operative phrase here is that you will have earned it.
If you think you have what it takes to put yourself in the position of responding to future disaster relief efforts, check out the links in this article or even call your recruiter to try and learn more about 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.