French ED, Sole ML, Byers JF. A comparison of nurses’ needs/concerns and hospital disaster plans following Florida’s Hurricane Floyd. J Emerg Nurs 2002; 28:111-117.

Emergency department (ED) nurses are concerned primarily about family safety, pet care, and personal safety while at work during disasters, says this study from University of Central Florida School of Nursing in Orlando. The researchers surveyed four focus groups of 30 ED nurses and reviewed each hospital’s disaster protocol to determine nurses’ concerns and needs during a natural disaster.

Those nurses said they would like disaster plans changed to address work assignments, financial compensation, flexibility for extenuating circumstances, pet care, shelter for family members, and basic needs. They also said that managers were not "in the trenches" with staff and didn’t provide good leadership. In reviewing the disaster plans, researchers found the following:

  • Policies for all four hospitals failed to address how basic provisions would be handled, such as food, water, blankets, pillows, and beds.
  • Employees’ families were directed to public shelters instead of hospital campuses.
  • Pet care was addressed in only one policy, and it only gave recommendations for local animal shelters.

The researchers concluded that the nurses’ concerns were valid and that written policies for disaster response were "woefully inadequate" to address staff needs during a major hurricane. "Much work needs to be done to prepare for future disasters," they said.

The researchers recommend the following:

  • Designate sleep and shower areas on a priority basis to those providing direct patient care.
  • Develop volunteer hotline number for available health care providers to call in to help during disasters.
  • Ask for volunteers from existing staff to participate in hurricane response.
  • Provide incentives such as increased pay allowances, guaranteed paid time off after the disaster, family shelter areas, and food and drink.