Academic journal article Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

Disaster Readiness: A Community - University Partnership

Academic journal article Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

Disaster Readiness: A Community - University Partnership

Article excerpt

Abstract

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina heightened public awareness of vulnerability to disasters and the need for disaster preparedness. Disaster-preparedness studies tend to focus on formal systems of healthcare and frontline healthcare providers, such as hospital personnel, public health staff, or emergency medical services workers who care for community members having serious injuries. Community members who are not seriously injured, however, are expected to care for themselves immediately after a disaster occurs. To date, little is known about the community members' level of preparedness to meet their basic, self-care needs immediately following a disaster or the effectiveness of such preparedness education for the community. Yet, the health and safety of the general community following a disaster depends on its citizens' level of preparedness to meet the needs not only of the seriously injured, but also of those with minimal or no injuries. Schools of nursing can play a vital role in enhancing the general public's self-care ability following a disaster. The authors of this article describe a clinical learning experience that involved nursing students in a health education project related to one community's desire to better prepare themselves for future disasters. A participatory action research (PAR) approach, which included collaboration with a community, involvement of the target community, and project evaluation, provided a framework for this disaster-preparedness initiative.

Citation: Adams, L., Canclini., S., (August 29, 2008) "Disaster Readiness: A Community - University Partnership" OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing; Vol. 13 No. 3. Available: www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/vol132008/No3Sept08/ArticlePreviousTopic/DisasterReadiness.aspx

Key Words: community health, community partnership, disaster nursing, disaster preparedness, emergency preparedness, health education, nursing education, participatory action research, vulnerability management

In the fall of 2005, North Central Texas became a hub of disaster relief for thousands of people following Hurricane Katrina. One local chapter of the American Red Cross estimated that over 28,000 people registered at shelters within one county following the Hurricane (Weeks, 2007). Shelters were open for seven weeks; during this time, over 34,000 Disaster Health Services contacts and over 33,000 Disaster Mental Health Services contacts were made (Weeks).

Students and faculty of the Texas Christian University (TCU) Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences provided essential services as part of the North Central Texas efforts to provide care for survivors of Katrina. As multiple planeloads carrying persons having varying levels of healthcare needs arrived in the county, students and faculty were actively involved in the early phases of tracking and identifying these individuals in order to assist with the process of family reunification. This project was barely finished when Hurricane Rita appeared, sending thousands of Gulf Coast residents scrambling to North Central Texas for safety.

Community awareness of disaster vulnerability was heightened by this disastrous hurricane season and its aftermath, and community members became anxious to find ways to respond to such disasters in the future. Community awareness of disaster vulnerability was heightened by this disastrous hurricane season and its aftermath, and community members became anxious to find ways to respond to such disasters in the future. Having already participated in this massive disaster response, students at the TCU Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences were eager to maintain their involvement with the community and prepare community members to better care for themselves during future disasters. Nursing faculty were aware that the region had been designated as a future hurricane evacuation site for coastal residents and that it was also vulnerable to disasters of its own, such as tornadoes, floods, and wildfires. …

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