When natural disasters strike, nurses are called upon to work the frontlines, treating wounded and providing healthcare where it’s needed. While tragedies can occur anywhere, some areas are more prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, and other such catastrophes.
If you’re a traveler working on an assignment in a disaster-prone area, it pays to be prepared. There are protocols and precautions you can take to mitigate the impact of major crises, rather than having to scramble the second they strike.
Fortune favors the prepared after all; so, to ensure you’re ready in case of a crisis, let’s go over the most common questions asked by Host Healthcare nurses who’ve lived through such disasters. Alongside our answers, we’ll explain exactly how we’ll support you should such a tragedy occur while you’re on assignment.
Prior to a Natural Disaster
While some natural disasters happen unpredictably and unexpectedly, others are a bit easier to foretell. For instance, some areas are simply more susceptible to fires, floods, and other natural phenomena due to their location and climate.
Although you may not be able to prevent these disasters, you can be ready when they happen with the following information.
#1: A Natural Disaster Is Expected to Impact My Area Soon. Am I Expected to Work My Shift if I Feel Unsafe?
If you’re a healthcare traveler and find yourself caught in the midst of a natural disaster, we understand that your safety and well-being are of the utmost importance. In such situations, your personal security trumps your professional obligations, and you’re not expected to work if you feel unsafe.
Before an anticipated natural disaster, proactively gather information by contacting the healthcare facility in advance to understand their emergency protocols and inquire about accommodations for staff. Some institutions provide provisions for healthcare professionals to stay at the hospital, ensuring a safe refuge and informed decision-making during challenging times.
In the event of an emergency, we encourage you to contact your travel nurse recruiter immediately to discuss the situation and determine the best course of action. They’re well-versed in disaster response protocols and can help you plan a course of action that prioritizes your safety while also considering the needs of your healthcare facility.
If you feel that it’s safe to work, we ask that you follow the facility’s emergency protocols, as well as any guidelines provided by the county and state authorities. Your recruiter can provide you with additional guidance and support should you need it.
#2: I Had to Call Out from My Facility to Prepare My Permanent Home for a Natural Disaster. Do I Need to Submit Anything to Host Healthcare?
Natural disasters can be unpredictable, and a sudden crisis may pose an unexpected threat to your property or loved ones. If you’re away on assignment, this can mean having to call out of work to attend to your responsibilities back home. In case of this unfortunate scenario, we want to support you in any way we can.
Your manager should be the first one informed if you’ll be missing a shift, so let them know with as much notice as possible.
Additionally, please contact your recruiter to fill them in on the situation. While your recruiter won’t be able to notify your facility about your absence on your behalf, they can assist with any paperwork or documentation that your employer may request of you. They can also give you thoughtful guidance about any policies or procedures your facility has for such situations.
During a Natural Disaster
Whether in the form of a hurricane, flash flood, or anything in between, disaster has officially hit. What should you do?
Keep a cool head and consider the following:
#3: I Heard a News Report That My Facility Is Closing Due to a Natural Disaster. Should I Still Report to My Facility as Scheduled?
If you have questions about your shift or when you’ll be scheduled to work again, please reach out directly to your manager for updates. Since every facility will handle natural disaster events differently, use your recruiter as a resource for facility updates, protocol, or additional direction.
#4: My Facility Canceled My Contract Due to a Natural Disaster. Will I Still Be Paid?
Yes, you’ll still be paid for the hours you worked at the facility. If your contract is canceled due to an emergency or a natural disaster, rest assured knowing that your recruiter will help you find a new travel nursing job as soon as possible.
#5: My Facility Required Me to Work on Their Disaster Response Team Overnight. How Do I Report That on My Timecard?
The specifics of your employment contract will determine if you receive an increased rate for overnights or disaster response. Document the hours you worked on your timesheet, then review your agreement with your recruiter to see if you’re eligible for crisis pay.
Post Natural Disaster
When you’re in recovery mode after a natural disaster, Host Healthcare will be there to support you. Here’s what you should know while you get back on your feet.
#6: My Temporary Housing Was Damaged Due to a Natural Disaster, and I Now Have No Place to Stay for My Assignment. What Should I Do?
If your temporary accommodations become unlivable, contact your recruiter at the earliest available opportunity. They’ll work with the housing department to search for safe, secure housing that hasn’t been affected by the disaster.
How to Stay Prepared
While understanding a natural disaster’s implications on your job and home is important, the primary concern in any crisis is your own personal safety. To ensure you and those around you have support and supplies in case an emergency strikes, consider these tips:
- Pack an emergency supply kit – While you may not be able to travel with a large supply of gear, you should at least have a personal emergency kit readily available to help in any situation—whether you’ve been caught in an extended power outage or are stranded on a highway. Likewise, you should consider tailoring its contents to the climate and natural phenomena common in your region. Regardless of where you live, however, your emergency pack should always include these bare essentials:
- A first-aid kit with bandages, gauze, adhesive tape, and sutures
- Fresh water for drinking and sanitation
- Non-perishable food
- A flashlight with batteries
- An N95 respirator mask
- A whistle
- A fully-charged power bank
- Fresh clothes, blankets, and scrubs
- Hand sanitizers and soaps
- Partner with a trusted travel nursing agency – When looking for assignments, travel nurses and healthcare professionals should put careful thought into who they partner with. One of the major factors in this selection process should be how the staffing agency supports and protects nurses who are out on assignment when a natural disaster or emergency occurs.
At Host Healthcare, we understand the importance of being there for our travel nurses when they need us most. That’s why we have a dedicated support team that’s available to our nurses 24/7 via multiple communication channels, including:
- Live chat
- Phone call
That way, if an entire service goes down during a disaster—such as your area’s internet—you’ll still be able to contact us for help.
Host Healthcare—Supporting Our Travel Nurses Through Good and Bad
As a travel nurse, every assignment offers new opportunities for growth and adventure. But with new experiences also come new challenges, including the potential for natural disasters or emergency situations.
At Host Healthcare, we work our hardest to prepare our support staff and nurses for the unexpected. That’s why we’re committed to being consistently available, thoroughly informed, and wholly prepared to assist nurses affected by natural disasters in any way possible.
If you’re looking for a travel nursing agency that truly values your safety and well-being, we invite you to join our community of travelers today. Experience profound security and peace of mind by heading out on your next nursing adventure with Host Healthcare.
Gebbie, Kristine M. DrPH, RN, FAAN. “Emergency and Disaster Preparedness: Core Competencies for Nurses
What every nurse should but may not know.” American Nursing Journal. 102(1):p 46-51, January 2002. https://journals.lww.com/ajnonline/Fulltext/2002/01000/Emergency_and_Disaster_Preparedness__Core.23.aspx