Emergency nurses and disaster response: An exploration of South Australian emergency nurses' knowledge and perceptions of their roles in disaster response

Karen Hammad, Paul Arbon, Kristine Gebbie

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    59 Citations (Scopus)


    The word 'disaster' for many people conjures up images of well publicized events such as 9/11 (2001), the London bombings (2005), Hurricane Katrina (2005) and more recently the Haiti earthquake (2010). For Australians, the impact of disasters closer to our shores has been felt through such incidents as the Bali bombings (2002 and 2005) and the Boxing Day Tsunami (2004). Significant events that have occurred on Australian soil include Cyclone Tracey (1974), the Granville Rail disaster (1977) and Ash Wednesday bushfires (1983). Natural disasters such as flooding, cyclones and bushfires continue to impact Australian communities. However, to date Australia has avoided a large scale disaster event that has overwhelmed the health care system.A mixed method approach underpins this study. Both quantitative and qualitative data was collected through a self report questionnaire. Quantitative data has provided statistic evidence to support the findings, while the qualitative data has allowed for a richer understanding of nurses' perceptions. The population for this study is South Australian emergency nurses working in public hospital emergency departments in metropolitan Adelaide.Three key themes emerged from the data. Firstly, South Australian emergency nurses have had minimal previous disaster experience (either through a real event or simulated exercises). Second, although a large number of nurses have completed what they perceive to be disaster education and training, questions were raised regarding the appropriateness, relevance and availability of such education. Third, South Australian emergency nurses have a low level of disaster knowledge. The findings from this study are relevant not only for emergency nurses, but for all health professionals involved in disaster response. In particular for those who have had minimal disaster response experience and limited exposure to disaster education and training opportunities. This study suggests a disaster training program for South Australian emergency nurses would be beneficial. The need for future research into appropriate disaster education and training for health professionals is highlighted by the study.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)87-94
    Number of pages8
    JournalAustralasian Emergency Nursing Journal
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - May 2011


    • Disaster
    • Disaster education
    • Disaster knowledge nurse
    • Disaster training
    • Emergency department
    • Emergency nurse
    • Previous disaster response


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