Chaos, Teamwork, Compassion, and Leadership

Disasters and Nursing's Finest Hours

Karlene M. Kerfoot


Nurs Econ. 2019;37(5):265-267. 

In This Article

Leadership and Managing Through Disasters

We all know that training, mock drills, maintaining effective readiness, and selecting the right technology for any situation is an essential competency of nurse leaders. When crisis hits, relying on the knowledge and "muscle memory" of past drills and education are invaluable. Unfortunately, disasters are not always predictable. So, one of the best leadership tools is having a well-prepared staff who can think for themselves and act automatically in a time of crisis. Barton (2008) noted that successful leaders have an action plan and respond quickly. Those who do not, fail. Veenema (2012) explained that often nurses and nursing leaders assume they are not emergency responders and do not need to understand disaster nursing principles. Yet, nurses often find themselves on the front lines when disaster strikes. Kayla Miller, a critical care nurse, found herself in that situation as she was running from the gunfire during a mass shooting in Dayton, OH, but heroically stopped to perform CPR on wounded people on the sidewalk (Stump, 2019). The all too common occurrence of disasters means nurse leaders are expected to direct nursing practice in crisis situations and be prepared to work in command centers and other emergency venues. Veenema (2012) offers a useful "Toolkit for Disaster Response" to guide nurse leaders in the chaos. However, there is more to disaster nursing than protocols and toolkits.