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A Population Less Discussed: Natural Disasters, PTSD, and Nurses

A Population Less Discussed: Natural Disasters, PTSD, and Nurses

The aftermath of natural disasters are often talked about on a national level, but not as often on a personal one. We see devastating situations on the news, as families lose their homes or their loved ones, but what about the other side of these unfortunate events? We often view nurses as being on the “helping” or “saving” side, but how are they affected when natural disaster strikes them? If you or a loved one has witnessed the aftermath of a natural disaster, it’s likely that healing and restoration will be needed to move past it in a healthy way.

A 2016 study published in the Open Journal of Nursing sought to explore the incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) amongst nurses after a natural disaster struck (in this study, it was in relation to Super Storm Sandy). An anonymous, online survey was distributed, and a total of 129 nurses participated. Researchers asked questions regarding the following:

  • How long they were evacuated for
  • Whether or not they had flooding insurance
  • The range of property damage that occurred
  • The coping strategies that were used

Overall, 45 nurses from the study reported being evacuated, with the majority of them not having flood insurance. The average length of days for evacuation was 52.87, with greater intensity in property damage increasing the likelihood of a nurse experiencing PTSD symptoms. Respondents reported the following coping strategies (from most popular method to least popular method) as helping them work through this traumatic event: 1) accepting the situation, 2) actively coping with the situation, 3) positive-reframing, 4) planning, 5) emotional support, 6) self-distraction, and 7) venting.

Coping strategies such as acceptance and active coping are examples of building resiliency, which, according to previous research, can actually make a person stronger. A 2017 study published in the journal PLOS One found that the greater the resilience nurses had to the effects of natural disaster, the lower they scored on symptoms of PTSD.

Each person’s life story is different, and sometimes we need professional services to help us move forward with our lives. The most important step you can take for yourself is to find a therapist or holistic practice that can help you restore your mind, body, and spirit amidst troubling times. It’s never too late to seek the help you need.

If you haven’t already, speak with someone from a professional treatment center to learn more about programs to best suit your needs. Optimal recovery is possible, and you are not alone in your pursuit for happiness, health, and wellbeing.

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