The Fraught Journeys of Those Fleeing Hurricanes

AJN received this guest post last week, when the effects of Hurricane Irma were still in the headlines, from Kathryn Jackman-Murphy, EdD, MSN, RN, professor of nursing at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Connecticut. The challenges she describes here are not specific to Hurricane Irma—they are faced again and again by those forced from their homes and communities by storms and other natural disasters, and they often happen out of sight of the media.

by patchy patch, via flickr

Right after Hurricane Irma began to hit Florida, I checked in with one of my son’s adult friends. He was searching for a safe landing site for himself and his elderly parents, as his initial plans to stay had been compromised by the hurricane. He was now in Tennessee, with no idea of where they would be able to stay until it was safe to return home. The dad is a Vietnam-era veteran with PTSD, hypertension, and diabetes. The mom also has diabetes and some limitations with mobility related to arthritis and walks with a cane.

How can nurses help?

Watching the devastation in Florida and Texas, I was searching for something to do to help. That’s what nurses do—we help. Being so far away in the Northeast, I felt not only helpless but acutely aware that my world was still intact while […]

The Health Impacts of Hurricane Harvey—What Nurses Need to Know

Geocolor imagery of Hurricane Harvey on verge of making landfall. Image created by the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere.

As Hurricane Harvey, now a tropical storm, continues to affect a large area of southern Texas and other parts of the South, the full impact on human health has yet to be determined. But it’s clear the flooding has caused a historical crisis in Houston and surrounding areas—and that nurses and other health professionals will be in great demand in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Short- and Long-Term Health Concerns

The short- and long-term health consequences people are facing as they escape rising water levels are detailed in the Washington Post. Although drowning is the most immediate and dangerous threat during a flood, those seeking safety are also endangered by sharp objects and even wild animals caught up in floodwaters. Mold and its impact on human health will be a concern in the coming weeks and months, as water-damaged buildings are reoccupied.

In the meantime, health authorities are worried about the spread of infectious diseases. As sewage contaminates the floodwaters and people crowd into shelters, they may be more susceptible to the development of skin, gastrointestinal, and respiratory infections. A prolonged lack of power, and thus air conditioning […]

Identifying and Addressing the Profound Mental Health Effects of Climate Change

Residents amid homes consumed by flood and fire, White Sulphur Springs, WV, June 2016. Photo © AP Photo / Steve Helber.

A new word for an era of increasing environmental instability.

A lot of attention is currently paid to the physical impacts of climate change, including extreme heat events, droughts, extreme storms, and rising sea levels. Far less attention has been paid to the psychological impacts of this change. For example, you may not be familiar with the term “solastalgia.” It’s related to the older word “nostalgia,” but was created to reflect the environmental and often related sociopolitical uncertainty of our current times—that is, of change that’s slow and incremental, and often even denied, and then sometimes rapid and catastrophic and impossible to ignore.

The term is explained in more detail in an April feature article in AJN, “Climate Change and Mental Health,” by Janna Trombley, Stephanie Chalupka, and Laura Anderko:

Solastalgia is a term coined a decade ago by philosopher Glenn Albrecht . . . It refers to the psychological distress resulting from degradation of one’s home environment.49 Solastalgia can occur as a result of events that impact climate change, including drought, wildfires, and natural disasters.49, […]