Community Health Nursing: Emergency Preparedness

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 7
Words: 1915
Reading time:
7 min
Study level: College


The level of emergency preparedness of a community determines its capacity to deal with emergency issues (Carroll, 2003). The issues presented with this case study on the roles and responsibilities that have been undertaken by the hospital, senior center, school, and Bley household. In brief, the events illustrated in episode five of this emergency case begin with the news of a devastating forest fire that has not been contained by the time of reporting the news.

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This has gone on for over five days and has destroyed an uncalculated number of acres each day and still goes on. The efforts of firefighters and health workers in bringing the fire down and keeping patients breathing respectively have also been illustrated. The medical staff has pointed out that smoky air conditions affect everyone but have grave impacts on pre-existing community members with lung complications.

Events in Episode Five


The role of the hospital in handling emergency medical issues such as this one has is of most importance. In the analysis of this case study, the hospital has responded by admitting patients with emphysema and asthma because of the adverse effects of a forest fire. Episode five events within the hospital illustrate that the unit is full of patients and the emergency department keeps calling for beds to cater to the increasing number of patients. The increasing number of patients in the hospital has put pressure on its resources. This has put pressure to get patients who have recorded improvement in their conditions discharged. Kate Swanson, the nurse at the hospital facility is very busy admitting patients, discharging others, and transferring others to appropriate units.

Senior Center

The Neighborhood Center Nursing Clinic where Nurse Karen Williams works houses many of the seniors within the community. Some of them have needed more oxygen in the week. The role of the hospital in the whole emergency case has been of great significance given the fact that most patients have received medical attention regarding the complications caused by the forest fire.


The school has offered a good area in which complications on the children have been detected and corrective referral steps are undertaken. The teachers at the school have detected anomalies in a student such as increased breathing rates, coughing, and wheezing in the lungs have effectively referred the student to the local community nurse for further check-up. The school has therefore acted as a point of reference for students who have encountered medical complications.

Bley Household

The capacity of a household to protect its members from the devastating effects of forest fire depends on the knowledge they have on the effects of such emergency cases. The Bley household is an informed household that has ensured that its members are safe and protected from the diverse effects of smoke. The advice of Jimmy protects the pair from the effects of smoke and breathing problems that would have impacted negatively on their health.

Actions of health care workers

The central role of community health care workers rests with the application of preventive and public health knowledge in the reduction of chances of the occurrences of communicable diseases, foodborne diseases, and other disaster-related illnesses (Nies & McEwan, 2001). They are also responsible for the promotion of health principles through food safety practices. In addition to the above, he remains the supervisor of all activities related to public health and ensures that a high level of public health is achieved during and after the disaster period.

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In the scenario, the health care workers have swiftly responded by taking the central responsibility in undertaking disease surveillance which forms a fundamental step incorrect detection of diseases brought about by the fire disaster. In addition to that, they have been also responsible for ensuring that food services outlets not only adhere to the set rules within public health but also provide quality services within hygienic environments. In addition to the above, public health nurses have also conducted preventive medicine and communicable disease monitoring and control.

Apart from roles that are directly related to their profession, they also undertake different responsibilities. The community health care workers have shown competency, compassion, and demonstrated accessibility during this time of the fire disaster.

Their central role should be to demonstrate that the community is in safe hands during the time of disaster and avoid giving statements to the media that are either unconfirmed or can instill fear within the members of the community. In addition to the above, this group of individuals has to lead the team in assessing the extent of the damage, evaluating the status of critical utilities, and identifying immediate and long-term effects of public health concerns. This group has also led in the search and rescue efforts and taken data to ascertain the number of residents who are unaccounted for at the time of the disaster.

Response and Roles of Nurses

Nurses that initially responded to the emergency were Kate Swanson and Karen Williams. Nurses played very fundamental roles during this time of disaster and thus made use of requiring several available resources to adequately address the demands of their duties. While nurses have traditionally been given training that focuses primarily on patient care in health care institutions, disasters come along with unique and complicated problems that require more than simple training. The nurse must be equipped with not only physical resources to move around and assess the conditions of members of the community but also mental resources to handle the difficult situations adequately. In this regard, nurses need enough medical supplies with them, a generator to handle emergency issues that require power and other medical equipments that may come in handy.

Actions taken by the community health nurses

“Misuse of nurses in disaster, response and recovery, nurses must get involved in their communities through the local heath department or local government” (Stanhope and Lancaster, 2004).There are a number of actions that were taken by community health nurses during disasters times.

These included an inspection on the conditions of everyone who was affected by the fire disaster, carrying out a determination of whether anyone may have been in need of medical attention, and determined whether the available medical supplies were adequate to handle the situation. After the assessment of these community demands, community health nurses moved to provide the right solutions to these problems without delay. Furthermore, they also provided psychological counseling to the affected members of the community.

This is because of the background knowledge that disasters leave behind a lot of stress and psychological trauma. The community members require a lot of counseling to cope and carry on with their lives after the disaster. Community health Nurses played a very active role in the provision of shoulders to lean on during such hard times. The effectiveness of a disaster recovery efforts are best measured by how fast the affected community manages to cope up with its effects. Nurses must therefore ensure that they provide the best of psychological support to the community.

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Disasters that occur in much large areas such as the case of forest fire demands a lot on the part of community health nurses to effectively carry their duties. The ability to effectively respond to large scale disasters come from organizational abilities and skills (Hitchcock, Schubert &Thomas, 2003). Nurses who handle large scale disaster situations must be able to acquire large amounts of resources and have the ability to move faster and easily across the affected regions. In addition to that, the ability to coordinate, liaise and communicate with the community members on their needs goes a long way in ensuring that their needs are met. Specific actions that community health nurses took included necessary measure to ensure that shelters were available before the onset of the disaster and that the amenities are not only adequate but are in good conditions.

They also ascertained that there were enough resources during the emergency period to cater for the huge demands of the ailing population. The provision of food must be arranged and the public nurse must ensure that this is adequate and appropriate for human consumption. He should then proceed to develop an inventory for residents who could be having difficult complications and thus require special needs during this time of emergency. Lastly, the public nurse can only achieve his or her objectives effectively if communication channels are enhanced. In this regard, the public nurse must ensure that he or she remains in contact with the residents at all time to determine any urgent need that require swift response.

Areas Community Health Nurses Should Monitor

In the analysis of this fire tragedy, areas that community health nurses should monitor include the severity of the tragedy and the levels of stress and psychological trauma on community members. In addition to the above, community health nurses should lead the team in assessing the extent of the damage, evaluating the status of critical utilities, and identifying immediate and long-term effects of public health concerns. This should also take active roles in monitoring the search and rescue efforts, monitoring the data on reported cases that need medical attention, and taking such an opportunity to monitor the levels of community preparedness and capacity to deal with future tragedies.

Roles of public health care teams can enhance the citizens’ preparedness for community emergencies

The public health care teams can enhance the citizens’ preparedness for community emergencies in several ways. The most effective method that has been advanced is the application of capacity building to equip them with skills on how to manage emergencies (DeRidder, Depla, Severens & Malsch, 1997). This may involve basic training on skills such as administration of first aid skills and steps to take in such situations. In addition to the above, the public health team can enhance the citizens’ preparedness for community emergencies by developing and instituting policies that can have the capacity to reduce the impact of such tragedies.

This can be enhanced through the development of a chain of command that deals with team preparedness. The chain of command in disaster operations and rescue efforts must consist of individuals who can professionally handle their roles.

The process of recruitment must involve a close and thorough analysis of every team member’s strengths and capacity to perform. In this case, this team would best be composed of the Incident Commander at the top of the chain of command who must demonstrate excellent organizational and leadership quality to rally behind him other members of the team for effective disaster response efforts. This process enhances the capacity of a community to deal with disasters in that it ensures smooth operations and effective communication. All these factors combine to institute a system that is devoid of confusion and capable of achieving its objectives.

Suggestions to enhance personal preparedness

Whereas incidents such as fire tragedies do not give warnings, instituting a culture of personal preparedness can enhance one’s ability to limit the impacts of such tragedies. These suggestions would include taking personal initiative in learning effective home therapies such as the use of inhalers and breathalyzers to ensure that they stay safe before the arrival of the medical and rescue teams. Furthermore, basic knowledge on the understanding of one’s medical conditions in regards to breathing problems and lung conditions may enhance the capacity of an individual to stay safe. In conclusion, it can be discerned from the above discussions that the capacity of community preparedness to deal with a tragedy calls for the contribution of all individuals.

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Carroll, P.L. (2003). Community health nursing: a practical guide. New York: Cengage Learning.

DeRidder, D., Depla, M., Severens. P., and Malsch, M. (1997). Beliefs in coping with illness: A consumer’s perspective. Journal of Social Sciences in Medicine. Vol.44 no.5: 76-85.

Hitchcock, J.E., Schubert, P. and Thomas, S.A. (2003). Community health nursing: caring in action. New York: Cengage Learning.

Nies, M.A. and McEwan, M. (2001). Community health nursing: promoting the health of populations. Manchester: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Stanhope, M. and Lancaster, J. (2004). Community and public health nursing. New York: Elsevier Health Sciences.