Disaster-Response Nursing

Disaster-Response Nursing

Disaster-Response Nursing

Members of the Appalachia Project team, representing the University of Tennessee’s Colleges of Architecture and Nursing and Appalachian community partner Red Bird Mission, discuss emergency management concerns in the local Appalachia community. Photo by Daniel Speraw.

When disaster strikes, a healthy population is better able to cope. Accordingly, professors and graduate students in the University of Tennessee’s Global Disaster Nursing program have partnered with architecture and environmental engineering professors, law enforcement officials, and local organizations in Clay County, Kentucky, to prepare for tornados, floods, and other catastrophes.

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The Appalachian region of Clay County is considered to be at high risk. Not only is it located far from emergency medical resources, it has also been hit hard in the past by flooding and ice storms, leaving a housing crisis and a contaminated water supply, among other vulnerabilities. In this unique program, the multidisciplinary team will collaborate with community members to identify and address access to health care, new structures, sanitation, and overall wellness in the area.

“Our goal is to help the community to essentially strengthen itself,” says Susan Speraw, the project leader and coordinator of the university’s Global Disaster Nursing program. For instance, noting that respiratory problems are a health threat in the region, in part because of water leakage and mold, she says, “We’re not looking to write prescriptions for more asthma inhalers. Our objective is to get rid of the root causes of asthma.”

Victoria Niederhauser, dean of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Nursing believes the project could serve as a national model and that public health nurses are uniquely suited to lead the way.

“Nurses take a holistic approach to everything they do,” says Niederhauser. “They ask, What is the environment like? What are the support services? This translates very easily into being leaders in both global health and disaster response.”

For more about the Global Disaster Nursing program, visit Laura Wallis

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