Moments of disaster response in the Emergency Department

Dr Karen Hammad1

1Flinders University, Adelaide , Australia

Introduction: In the end we will not remember the years we spent in nursing. We will only remember the moments (Donahue 1996). We experience our lives as a series of memorable moments, some good and some bad. Undoubtedly, the experience of participating in disaster response, is likely to stand out as a memorable moment in a nurses’ career. This presentation will describe five distinct moments of nursing in the emergency department (ED) during a disaster response. Our existing understanding of emergency nurses’ participation in disaster response comes largely from narrative accounts of single events. This study is unique because it explores the experience of nursing in the ED during a disaster across different geographical regions and disaster types.

Method: A Hermeneutic Phenomenological approach informed by van Manen underpins the research process. Thirteen nurses from different countries around the world participated in interviews about their experience of working in the ED during a disaster. Interviews were conducted face to face or via Skype. Thematic analysis and a guided existential reflection resulted in two different perspectives of the experience of working as a nurse in the ED during a disaster response. This presentation will report on one of these aspects.

Results: The moments of notification, waiting, patient arrival, caring for patients and reflection described by nurses who participated in this research provide insight into the experience of nursing in the ED during a disaster response. Consideration of these individual moments will lead to recommendations for future preparedness of emergency nurses.

Conclusion: This presentation focuses on one aspect of the findings of a PhD study and provides an in-depth insight into the experience of nursing in the ED during a disaster response which can help generate awareness and inform future disaster preparedness of emergency nurses.


Karen is a CENA Fellow, she is currently employed as a Lecturer in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Flinders University where she runs the post graduate emergency nursing program and a Masters degree in Disaster Health Care. Karen is also an emergency nurse with more than 20 years experience.