Preparing nurses to respond to disaster — including some you've never thought of

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Jacqueline Vance, RN
Jacqueline Vance, RN

Nurses are trained in so many ways to prepare for disasters. Everything from hurricanes, floods, blizzards, earthquakes and other natural events, to severe viral and bacterial outbreaks, to surviving shootings and riots.

(It's a sad state of affairs when your neighbors are a greater threat than the worse that nature has to throw at us — but that's the new “normal.”)

However, I was reminiscing today and realized that there are some “disasters” we haven't planned for. Take, for instance, the time the registered dietician decided to create a vegetarian-based recipe of a tofu and bean casserole for dinner — and didn't share this tidbit with me, the DON at the time.

We wound up with one heck of a disaster that seriously affected the 3-11 AND 11-7 staffs — which could not be the WORSE shifts for this to happen on. If I remember correctly, every single resident was afflicted with “GI” issues.

Lesson learned. When the dietician wants to create a recipe that might induce massive diarrhea, prepare to have extra linens, wipes, butt cream, and, oh yeah, staff. 

Another atypical “disaster:” the first time your staff sees a naked 85-year-old woman who has had breast implants. Prepare to desensitize the staff member(s) who has never experienced this phenomenon with photos first — before they come backing out of the room with a look of fear mixed with wonder on their face. Obviously everything is headed south but those and it can be a bit frightening if you haven't “prepared” for it.

All kidding aside, while real disasters all vary, the best in our staff will shine.  Disasters may be unique, but our staff can astound us with their prepared determination to always do the right thing, no matter how difficult the situation.

So take a minute and thank those amazing people today. Before the disaster happens!

Just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie


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The Real Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, an APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.