While disaster response is a highly technical and sensitive effort, the most qualified of disaster professionals require additional education or real-life experience to ensure that help is delivered effectively, safely and efficiently. To assist nursing professionals volunteering their services in Haiti, Chamberlain College of Nursing in cooperation with the Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing's Future, will provide free online training Webinars hosted on the Gannett Healthcare Group's newly launched Haiti Web page to prepare nurses physically, mentally and culturally for the continued relief efforts.
"Volunteers without the specialized skills needed for disaster relief can do more harm than good, so qualified disaster professionals ensure that effective help is delivered in the most efficient manner and with safety of the volunteer in mind," says Susan Groenwald, MSN, BSN and president of Chamberlain College of Nursing. "At Chamberlain we believe it is our obligation to provide nursing professionals the opportunity for crucial education in disaster relief and prepare them as much a possible."
First-response professionals with specialized skills quickly deployed to disaster sites as U.S. nurses administered improvised treatment for the Haitian people in the immediate aftermath of last month's devastating earthquake. With aid slowly starting to pull back from the region, the second wave of responders will be expected to continue providing the same specialized medical assistance to a still-ravaged country.
"These specialized training programs go beyond the clinical aspects of educating professionals," asserts Dorothy Angelini, RN, MSN, and director of continuing education for the Gannett Healthcare Group. "They allow volunteer nurses an accessible platform to truly understand and prepare for the situations they will face."
The safety of both the volunteers and Haitians who reside in the disaster relief area is a topic professionals should give heavy consideration. Doctors already in Haiti say infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, are quickly becoming the single most pressing medical issue as little clean water is compounding an already degenerated sanitation situation.
"A focus will be to provide nurses with information about some of the most common, but possibly unfamiliar, diseases in Haiti – such as typhoid fever, Hepatitis E, lymphatic filariasis, leptospirosis and human rabies. These programs will also explain what vaccines, medications and precautions are recommended for healthcare workers traveling to Haiti," Angelini says. "Safety for the volunteers has to be a priority on par with treatment of the people they have come to help."
Additionally, with one in five Haitians suffering from post-traumatic stress, these Webinars will also highlight the necessity of education that focuses on the mental health aspects of relief work. PTSD is the most common psychological after-effects experienced by victims of natural disasters and other traumatic experiences.
"Disaster relief assistance may be confusing to survivors," says Dr. Susan Fletcher, EdD, MSN, and a professor at Chamberlain College of Nursing who has taken her students on many international nursing mission trips. "They may experience frustration, anger and feelings of helplessness related towards these programs, or reject assistance of all types, so disaster mental health assistance is often more practical than psychological in nature."
Chamberlain College of Nursing