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Nurses on The Frontlines of Disaster Response

EMS nurse taking vitals of a collapsed female runner
Nurses have a long history of supporting disaster relief efforts through the American Red Cross. In the past six weeks, the Red Cross has launched a wide-ranging relief effort to help people devastated by three historic, back-to-back hurricanes—Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

In recent months, Americans from coast-to-coast have faced devastating natural disasters that have brought widespread destruction to entire communities and left thousands of citizens without food, shelter, and medical care. In the aftermath of these disasters, nurses from across the country have lined up to volunteer to aid in relief efforts through organizations like the American Red Cross.

Nurses have a long history of supporting disaster relief efforts through the Red Cross. In the 19th century, Red Cross nurses cared for victims of forest fires, floods, hurricanes, and other epidemics. Today, more than 20,000 nurses and student nurses serve the Red Cross, providing care and comfort to people in need across the nation. In times of natural disaster, the Red Cross is a leader in responding to emergencies, and nurses serve directly as a part of disaster response teams.

The Red Cross responds to nearly 64,000 disasters every year, from small house fires to multi-state natural disasters, and relies on the support of nurse volunteers to provide care and comfort to those impacted.

In the past five weeks, the Red Cross has launched a wide-ranging relief effort to help people devastated by three historic, back-to-back hurricanes—Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

“The Red Cross is on the ground, part of a large team of agencies and organizations responding, to provide help to communities turned upside down by these three Category 4 storms. As part of these relief efforts, the Red Cross helps provide shelter, meals and snacks, distribute emergency supplies and provide disaster health, mental health and spiritual care services,” said Mary Casey-Lockyer, MHS, RN, senior associate for Disaster Health Services at Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “For larger disasters like Harvey, several hundred nurses may be deployed throughout the length of the response.”

Nurses providing care on the ground during disaster situations are tasked with a wide range of responsibilities.

“Nurses generally serve as part of Red Cross Disaster Health Services, supporting affected communities by providing first aid treatment for injuries, monitoring the well-being of people staying in Red Cross shelters, and replacing prescription medications or eyeglasses,” Mary said. “Nurses within the Red Cross provide care within a community setting. This can include direct hands-on care, physical assessments, wound care, assistance with activities of daily living, and assistance with replacement of medications and equipment.”

The role of nurses in disaster relief is critical. According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), disaster preparedness and response has become part of the curriculum in many nursing programs, better enabling future nurses with the skills to prepare for and respond to emergencies. Student nurses can find continuing disaster response education offered through several nursing and non-nursing organizations. For example, Johnson & Johnson supports the TOMODACHI J&J Disaster Nursing Training Program, which aims to deepen the professional knowledge of nursing students specializing in disaster medicine and nursing in Tohoku, Japan.

“During non-disaster times is the ideal time for nurses to get involved with the Red Cross,” Mary said. “Red Cross has a volunteer process and training that promotes success of the volunteer when deployed to a disaster. Nurses with training and familiarity with the Red Cross who are processed before a disaster are much more likely to have a successful and meaningful deployment experience.”

To learn more about volunteering as a nurse through the Red Cross, visit To learn more about the TOMODACHI J&J Disaster Nursing Training Program, check out our Nursing Notes Live podcast featuring Chelsea Monteverde, a sophomore at the Rutgers School of Nursing in Newark, N.J., who participated in the program in 2016.

Join Johnson & Johnson to Support Disaster Efforts

Disasters strike without warning, devastating communities and leaving them without essential services, supplies, and infrastructure. Through the Donate a Photo platform, Johnson & Johnson is supporting emergency relief for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to help deliver life-saving services and resources to communities impacted.

You can help make a difference by sharing a photo through the Donate a Photo app to either the Heart to Heart International, Inc. or Save the Children causes. For every photo you donate, Johnson & Johnson will give $1 to Heart to Heart International, to distribute critical hygiene items to Hurricane Harvey survivors in Texas, or Save the Children, to help restore child care and education services after Hurricane Irma.

Funds raised through Donate a Photo are a small part of Johnson & Johnson’s broader support for those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. To learn more, visit  

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