Information for Nurses Who Help in Disasters

Nurses are often at the front lines of disaster response. How prepared are nurses—and the hospitals and other facilities where they may work?

Louisiana National Guard at Baton Rouge River Center, Aug 15, 2016, after major flooding pushed residents from homes. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Garrett L. Dipuma/RELEASED) Louisiana National Guard, Baton Rouge River Center, Aug 15, 2016, after flooding pushed residents from homes. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Garrett L. Dipuma/RELEASED)

The television news reports have recently been full of the devastating flooding in Louisiana. Especially heart-wrenching are the images of people, especially frail older adults, who are rescued with only a few meager possessions. They look shaken and frightened and too many say they’ve lost everything, the possessions of their lifetimes.

Many people will recover, with the help of friends and families, but some who are alone or isolated (or who just don’t deal well because of a variety of reasons) may experience undue stress. Sometimes, that stress can be overwhelming—and damaging to health.

We know—and applaud—all those nurses who volunteer with the American Red Cross and other relief agencies. Readers seeking to help survivors of disasters might find helpful information in our Responding to Disasters collection of articles. Especially useful might be the following:

“The Impact of Event Scale–Revised describes the use of a short questionnaire to assess a person’s response to a traumatic event. We published this in 2008, as part of our How to Try This Series, in partnership with the New York University College of Nursing’s Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing.


August 22nd, 2016|Nursing, Public health|0 Comments

Viewpoint: Some Arguments for More Autopsies

Detail from Rembrandt's 'The Anatomy Lecture of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp' Detail from Rembrandt’s ‘The Anatomy Lecture of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’

When families ask whether they should get an autopsy, what will you tell them?

When I was a nursing student at the University of Michigan, we learned anatomy by working on human cadavers. The experience left me with a deep appreciation for the beauty of the human body (even when ravaged by disease) and fundamentally shaped my view of a nurse’s role in health and healing.

The Viewpoint essay in the August issue of AJN,When Families Ask About an Autopsy,” reemphasizes the role of the human body as a teaching tool. Author Billie Holladay Skelley points out that autopsies can also

  • provide definitive answers about the cause of death (offering reassurance to family members).
  • reveal undiagnosed genetic conditions.
  • improve our understanding of diseases and disease trends.
  • and foster advances in treatment.

Virtual or minimally invasive autopsies may be more acceptable to some families while still offering some of the benefits of a full autopsy. […]

August 19th, 2016|Nursing|0 Comments

AJN Blog Subscribers: Four Old Blog Posts Were Sent Out in Error Today

A mea culpa to AJN blog subscribers. System glitch!

If you received four new posts today in your inboxes, they were sent out in error. These are in fact old posts that we were just updating in small technical ways, and notifications should not have gone out to subscribers about these posts.

Very sorry to flood your inboxes! Of course, having said that, some of these posts are still very much worth a read….800px-Woman-typing-on-laptop

August 18th, 2016|Nursing|0 Comments

Nurses Take Action on Moral Distress

Nurses gather at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing to address this growing problem.

A nurse struggles to reconcile repeated surgeries and transfusions for a premature infant with the child’s slight chance of survival. An oncology nurse knows a patient wants to refuse treatment but doesn’t do so because his physician and family want him to “fight on.” A nurse on a geriatric unit knows she is not giving needed care to patients because of inadequate staffing.

From left, Katherine Brown-Saltzman, Kathryn Trotochaud, Lisa Lehmann, Heidi Holtz From left, Katherine Brown-Saltzman,
Kathryn Trotochaud, Lisa Lehmann, Heidi Holtz

Situations like these are not rare for nurses and often give rise to moral distress—that is, when nurses recognize their responsibility to respond to care situations but are unable to translate their moral choices into action.

Moral distress in nursing has risen to unprecedented levels, contributing to burnout and staff shortages and imperiling safe, quality health care.

Seeking solutions.

Nursing researchers, clinicians, organization representatives, and other stakeholders convened in Baltimore on August 11-12 for an intense invitational workshop called State of the Science Symposium: Transforming Moral Distress to Moral Resiliency in Nursing. The meeting focused on how to best address moral distress.

The 46 participants heard from experts on what’s known from research and what’s still being debated, potential avenues for study, and what, despite the dearth of hard data, appear to be promising practices for dealing with moral distress. (For more on the intersection of moral distress and moral resiliency, see “Moral Distress: A Catalyst for Building Moral Resilience” in the July issue of AJN.)

After identifying what seem to be the essential elements of helpful initiatives and models, participants worked in groups to brainstorm strategies for developing resilience and creating healthy work environments that will promote safe, quality care for patients and their families. […]

August 16th, 2016|Nursing, nursing perspective|0 Comments

Former Navy Nurse Raises Awareness About the Lingering Effects of Agent Orange

Susan Schnall and a group of children at Tu Du Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City, in 2008. Susan Schnall and a group of children at Tu Du Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City, in 2008.

On August 10, 1961, the United States military first sprayed Agent Orange, a defoliant containing a particularly toxic dioxin compound, in Vietnam. Fifty-five years later, the effects of this and other chemicals linger on. And 48 years after former naval nurse Susan Schnall was court-martialed for protesting the Vietnam War, she visited Vietnam for the first time and witnessed these effects firsthand.

“In all my years in health care, I have never seen children with such severe birth defects,” Schnall said during an interview with AJN. After her court-martial, Schnall went on to have a successful 30-year career in hospital administration. After retiring and visiting Vietnam, she decided she needed to do something about what she witnessed there.

Schnall joined a group called the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign, made up of American Vietnam Veterans, Vietnamese Americans, social activists, and community leaders. The group aims to educate the public on the repercussions of the chemical warfare used in Southeast Asia and tries to get the U.S. government to compensate the more than 3 million Vietnamese people still suffering from the chemicals’ effects. […]