29 September, 2011

Exploring the role of nurses during the ‘Black Saturday’ and Victorian bushfires of 2009 in Australia

Shane Lenson presented on behalf of our research team, the key findings from our project that explored the role of nurses who assisted in the 2009 Black Saturday and Victorian Bushfires.

The Black Saturday bushfires were a series of bushfires that burned across the Australian state of Victoria. Extreme bushfire-weather conditions, resulted in Australia's highest ever loss of life and property from a bushfire. A total of 173 people died, 414 were injured, over 2030 houses, and 3500 structures were destroyed. Nurses provided clinical care, amongst other activities, in the pre-hospital environment during these fires. To date, there is a lack of literature regarding the experience of nurses in this environment. As such, this research explored the experience of nurses who assisted in the pre-hospital environment during the Victorian bushfires.

This research was descriptive and exploratory in nature using semi-structure interview as a means of data collection. Twelve nursing members of St John Ambulance Australia participated in the interviews which were electronic recorded and transcribed verbatim. Their narrative was them thematically analysed using a well-established human science approach. The findings identified two main themes and a number of sub-themes. The first theme: being prepared, included the subthemes of adequate clinical experience, appropriate level of training and enough resources. The second theme: expansive roles included the subthemes of minimal clinical care, emotional supporter, incident commander and administrator.

This research has provided valuable insight into the personal preparedness and nursing roles during the Black Saturday and Victorian bushfires of 2009. It has demonstrated that nurses are adaptable to their clinical environment and community needs, in a nursing role is that expansive beyond that of traditional images of nurses providing care in disasters.

Lenson S*, Ranse J. (2011). Exploring the role of nurses during the ‘Black Saturday’ and Victorian bushfires of 2009 in Australia; paper presented at the 9th International Conference for Emergency Nurses, Adelaide, South Australia, 29th September.


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