In the event of a disaster, the nurse’s primary roles and responsibilities include understanding and activating relevant disaster plan, educating civilians to help to decrease panic and anxiety, triaging, providing first-aid, and anything else they are needed for within the nursing scope of practice. Depending on the location and nature of the disaster, there may be limited supplies and staff available to help take care of victims. In this situation, the nurse needs to be adaptable in order to provide the best care with available resources. The nurse may also experience physical or emotional effects from the experience – it could be traumatic for many.
The two ethical codes applicable to a disaster relative to nursing is the responsibility to the patient, yet also the responsibility to the nurse’s self. Nursing is a career that has caring and selflessness at its core. Nurses face burnout physically, mentally, and emotionally because they so much care to others they do not leave time for self care. However, nurses may be taught to make sure they are safe themselves before helping others in the event of an emergency or disaster. I think because nurses put so much care into the lives of others, a lot of them would choose to think of patient safety before their own. This is not to say all nurses would not act for others if their own safety was compromised. They likely have family of their own to consider as well in a disaster – do they have children they do not want to leave behind? Are they obligated to take care of other family members or aging parents? Individually, nurses will make this choice for themselves based on a number of these life factors. I think it must be a complex predicament for any nurse who finds themselves in a disaster situation.