Updated on July 18, 2021

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There comes a time in our lives where social order breaks down, and chaos ensues. There are two main kinds of disasters that bring havoc to society as we know it. Natural disasters are related to all non-human catastrophes over which we have no control—earthquakes, storms, and tsunamis. 

The second type of disaster is often known as a ‘technological catastrophe’—these instances where humans have a direct or indirect link with the catastrophe at hand—for example, a falling building, nuclear disasters, and war-time havoc. 

Times like these bring dread and despair to just about everyone caught in the middle. Regardless of whether it’s natural or technological, the fact remains that people will get hurt and need to be tended to. Here’s where nurses and the general medical staff comes in. Not only do they tend to the injured, but they play a direct role in saving people’s lives. 

Without the medical first responders, death tolls during disasters would skyrocket, and the statistics would seem very grim. 

With that said, let’s look at five crucial roles that nurses place during disasters. 

Emergency treatment 

It stands to reason that the most prominent role that they would play during disaster situations would be treating people who have sustained injuries. The health department assigns registered nurses to disaster sites to provide quick medical assistance where necessary. 

When it comes to registered nurses responsibilities, you can count everything from educating the patients about their injuries, providing first aid, and aiding doctors on ground zero. RN’s do all this and more in times of crisis. They manage the staff to monitor the vitals of people who seemingly appear fit yet may have internal injuries. 

One can argue that nurses are instrumental on ground zero because they outnumber doctors and tend to minor to moderate injuries while doctors tend to severe cases. 

Issuing clearance 

Before individuals can carry on with their everyday lives, a medical practitioner needs to make sure that they are physically able to release. Sometimes during disaster situations, individuals might sustain internal injuries which they have no idea about. 

The adrenaline rush during the entire crisis can dull the pain perception and give the illusion that nothing is wrong. Nurses monitor vitals and ensure that everything is okay with the patient. Just because they aren’t showing surface-level symptoms doesn’t mean that they are entirely okay.

One of the most common injuries to go unnoticed in situations like these are concussions. Traumatic brain injuries can take a lasting toll on your health if not taken care of quickly. 

Evacuation efforts

In situations like these, nurses have to adopt roles which they might not mainly be familiar with. They have to work alongside police officials, the fire department, and public health officials to ensure that people find the proper exits from the disaster site.

Therefore, some nurses on the ground might not even be doing medical work. They may be conducting the flow of people, gathering data, or playing a part in administrative roles. Other than that, you may see them aiding police officials and other public health officials wherever the need arises. 

It’s important to understand that in crises, everyone works together for the greater good. Roles change, and sometimes you may find yourself doing things that aren’t related to your specialization. Regardless of the tasks that you are performing, what matters most is that you play your part and help save lives however you can.

Educating the general public 

During and after a disaster, there is a lot the general public needs to know about. For example, precautions, statistics, and other fundamental facts about the nature of the disaster need to be conveyed to various stakeholders. 

Nurses play a crucial role in dispatching general and medical information about the disaster. Facts and figures that the people need to know are often passed through medical personnel who play an imperative role in generating and sorting data. 

Without the ground information from medical personal during the catastrophe, the general public may be left in the dark about details they desperately need in times of crisis like this. 

Follow up medical evaluation

After certain types of disasters, it’s essential to keep tabs on the victims and monitor their recovery. Simply checking them on the spot and issuing their clearance isn’t enough. Nurses should take their consent, note contact information, and follow up to gauge how the patients are recovering after the dust settles (literally). 

One of the primary areas for concern is smoke and dust inhalation. The long-term lung damage that may come through such inhalation may cause certain types of lung cancer.

Nurses and doctors both need to conduct follow-ups with the victims to ensure that they are safe and healthy after the disaster. Such was the case after 9/11, where hundreds of people suffered failing health due to dust and smoke inhalation. 


There we have some of the most significant roles that nurses play in disasters. We talked about how nurses are more prominent in numbers, hence why they are called during disaster situations. Moreover, the first aid and medical care which nurses provide after extreme events are unmatched. 

Without them, the situation would be significantly different, and the death toll would most likely be higher. We saw the roles they play in education and how their diverse skill set comes in handy in several other aspects.  

We must appreciate what nurses do for us day in and day out. Not only do they tend to us when we need them in hospitals, but this article has talked about how they help us in emergencies. To all the nurses out there, you have our utmost respect, now and forever. 

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The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.