Nurses participate in almost every aspect of survival in the world. In America, nurses make up the biggest group in the health care sector.
They thus are the majority participants in the case of any disaster. This reason is sufficient enough to explain the need for disaster response training for all nurses. Disaster response must be a basic skill for all professionals, but more so those in the health department, like nurses.
Nurses must not only stay ready for a disaster; they must identify the type of disaster through its unique features, estimate the effects of a certain disaster, be in touch with the central areas of disaster alertness which constitute evaluation, mitigation, recovery, preparedness and response. Nurses should also be aware of possible challenges in disaster response, depending on the classification of the disaster (Veenema, 2006). This paper seeks to discuss wildfires as an individual form of disaster in relation to a nurse’s skills in decision-making, clinical judgment, other health professionals involved in the disaster management and the set guidelines to improvement of community disaster response.
The Role of the Nurse
Wildfires are classified as environmental and natural disasters. Nurses are needed in areas such as New Mexico to help in managing the occurrence of burns and to minimize the occasion of death upon injury of individuals at the disaster occurrence spots. Nurses are expected to protect themselves and the casualties during health emergencies. As much as they must be bold enough to combat dangerous situations, nurses must ensure that their lives are not compromised while they save lives.
The wildfires happening in New Mexico are largely attributed to climatic change. They are a common occurrence in New Mexico, burning out large areas of vast vegetation and forests. The burning of large scale biomass is discussed by scientists as a negative effect to the environment. These fires are not only causing high death rates for individuals living within close range on the areas affected, but are also the cause of air pollution, which might have harmful effects to the human respiratory system. The wildfires cause up to two-hundred thousand deaths per year, resulting from the biomass burning, attributed to both air pollution and burns. The explanation behind the air pollution cause of death relates to suffocation and the release of carbon when plant matter burns. Victims of the fire might not have to be too close to it to experience its harmful effects, as air circulation currents carry the harmful smoke miles into areas that have not yet experienced the fire first hand (Griffin, 2014).
Nurses are expected to handle such situations, as well as their secondary effects and in case there is a report on the deaths of health personnel while attending to a disaster, and then the personnel did not have a clear organization strategy (O’Boyle et al., 2006).Nurses and other health personnel need to employ decision-making skills and clinical judgment in order to experience a successful completion of disaster response management. A study completed using thirty-three nurses on catastrophic environmental disasters, and terrorism attacks resulted in a conclusion that identified several recommendations towards achieving a safe environment during disaster response. These recommendations include: achieving safety amidst confusion, psychological and physical support from a medical institution during disaster response and order amidst the commotion. Situations differ in every disaster thus nurses must employ critical thinking and clinical judgment of the prevailing occurrences. Clinical judgment in the case of wildfires involves making enquiries on the location, the time that the fire began, and any other information that would help in analyzing and preparation for ground work. Nurses, physicians and ambulance attendants should be involved in disaster response teams for the sake of creating a concrete team to combat arising issues. A team of qualified professionals should guarantee inter-professional solving of problems, centered in the patient’s best care. Nurses and fellow health practitioners should incorporate clinical reasoning, which includes sensitivity, compassion and employment of ethical practices to help the patient’s situation (O’Boyle et al., 2006). Clinical judgment in disaster response is dependent on clinical reasoning and is centered in achieving the best treatment for the patient as per the set standards of ethics. With wildfires, disaster response would entail the treatment of burns as well as suffocation and respiratory disorders. All this warrant an emergency approach for the team; thus all members require to be alert and well versed on the management of these situations (Veenema, 2007). A BSN nurse should learn to work with other medical professionals in the management of a wildfire disaster as there are different roles that each individual plays thus teamwork is paramount.
New Mexico’s case of wildfires is a natural disaster that needs to be attended to as soon as it occurs. Other than the healthy professionals, these disasters invite other members of disaster response teams, such as fire-fighters and the police. Nurses must work with all these people to achieve a goal oriented rescue. Since the prevalence of wildfires in New Mexico has increased, nurses should find constant fire drill exercises helpful as they will help decrease the response period as well as inform them on newer ways of handling the wildfires. Practice drills stimulate hospital emergency strategies. The skills acquired or improved during these drills are often practiced during health emergencies such as the wildfires.
There should also be compulsory training for all staff at hospitals and non-health institutions since the occurrence of disasters is unpredictable. Whenever a team of diverse field professionals has skills on the management of disasters, it is much easier to counter the disaster and in a shorter period as compared to when only a few individuals are aware of the tactics necessary for handling the situation. As stated in (O’Boyle et al., 2006), nurses and all other professionals should be safe as they perform their disaster response practices. Whenever nurses feel safe, they can handle the situation without fear and in a coordinated manner. In this light, nurses should be provided with isolation gowns that protect them from the flames in a wildfire tragedy, as well as sufficiently protective masks to protect them from inhaling carbon and smoke fumes. There should also be a dependable compensation plan for all members of staff who take part in disaster response missions. The compensation plan should come in whenever nurses or other professionals encounter tragic experiences that result in the loss of life or injury. When nurses go out to save lives and at the back of their minds they are reassured of safety and insurance, they are likely to perform better in their tasks. Sometimes, when nurses go out on disaster response missions, they lack the feeling of reassurance from the institution thus they feel unsure of their position in case they lose their lives in the process (Veenema, 2006). This form of uncertainty certainly affects the performance of health professionals during disaster response. Health institutions in New Mexico and all regions should aim at fostering confidence among their members of staff for the sake of increased agility in disaster response.
Wildfires are an environmental hazard, in as much as they are a natural disaster. They burn down biomass, which in turn causes a high production of carbon and poisonous smoke. These fumes easily trigger asthma and other respiratory disorders that cause long term illnesses and eventually death. There is thus need for a quick response to these fires as they cannot be easily prevented. Nurses and medical practitioners in health facilities, as well as all other departments that relate to disaster response should receive an updated response strategy plan in curbing deaths as a result of wildfires. In summary, nurses need to work with other professionals towards the achievement of prompt and professional response to wildfires. They require critical thinking skills and critical reasoning to tackle the diverse situations that present themselves, relating to this natural disaster. With an up to task disaster response team, wildfire disasters will ultimately be controlled. This however requires that certain strategies are fixed for the gain of both nurses and the affected persons. Health institutions should ensure that their staffs are well trained, protected and reassured before they handle a disaster mission. A confident nurse makes better judgment and decisions than a compromised one.