Nursing neglect... Tornados

  1. Due to the recent events in Nebraska and the threat of a storm in the next 24 hours we were discussing whether or not we could make our patients as safe as possible and head to the basement. Is there a nursing statute that deals with this?

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  2. 20 Comments

  3. by   Nitengale326
    Not sure about statutes but what about conscience? I don't want to leave my patients to take a break ... especially if I have a low caliber nurse as my partner. You signed on for good, for bad and for worse! Close the windows pull the patients out into the hall ways and close the doors and buck it up baby!!!
  4. by   movealong
    I worked in a hospital when the warning sirens were sounded. We followed P&P: started checking windows, pulling curtains over them, moved patients into the hallways with the doors of the rooms closed. We checked and assembled supplies: portable O2, and the like. We were on the 9th floor. Nobody fled.
    I understand how you felt. Not one of us truly wanted to be up on the 9th floor with a tornadoe, but it's the luck of the draw. It happened during our shift and you tough it out. Luckily it did not hit us.

    I was also working when the earthquake hit Southern California about 10 years ago. Not much fun then either. Luckily, it was early morning, and I was working in a clinic. We were getting ready for the day. Scarey stuff. This time I was on the ground floor of a 2 story building. We went around counting cracks in the walls, trying assess the damage. What got me was we starting calling patients to cancel appts as we obviously closed. Some patients were really hosed off about getting their appointments cancelled, even though we were getting rocked by aftershocks, had no electricity, had one md stuck in an elevator. I wanted nothing more than to go home, but stuck it out for as long as we were told to stay. When I did get to leave, I had to think about my drive home: did I have to go under any overpasses that might have been damaged, etc.

    I was scared and frightened both times. I wanted to go home both times. I think anyone who said otherwise would be lying. BUT, you stay and tough it out. I wouldn't leave the patients.
  5. by   fiestynurse
    The ANA Code of Ethics states that the nurse owes the same duty to self as to others. Nurses are allowed to preserve their own well being and safety. Your facility should have a clear policy and procedure for keeping all of you, patients and staff, safe during a tornado. Nursing Advocacy is not about jeopardizing your own life. You will not be accused of patient abandonment if you have done everything to make your patients safe and you leave them to preserve your own life. If you are truly afraid and concerned for your own well being, nobody is going to look down on you for running to the basement. It is certainly an ethical and moral dilemma, but it is always an individual choice to risk your life for the life of others. It would definitely be something that I would bring up at a staff meeting.

    When a huge forest fire was racing through our town, the hospital informed all of us that if we were concerned for our families or homes we could leave. Many of us were very frightened and could not reach our loved ones. Many stayed, but some left. The hospital had a clear policy on this and I think it was important that they gave these nurses permission to leave without feeling guilty about it.
    Last edit by fiestynurse on May 29, '04
  6. by   ktwlpn
    I have had to move patients into the hallways due to tornadoes....big fun.....I never for a scond thought about leaving...However I will confess that on Sept.11 I came VERY close to walking off of my job.I am in the tri-state area and a few local schools were closing.I wanted SO badly to go get my 6th grade son...but I stayed...It turned out that the middle school students were not told anything about what was happening-a BIG mistake in my opinion...The first my son heard about it was on the school bus on the way home and even though the truth was bad enough he heard even more wild stories...
  7. by   tsgarman
    I work in ICU and we had sirens go off 2 days in a row at our facility. The only thing we could do was move our pt's the best we could close to the doors and cover them with blankets and pull down the blinds and put pillows up against the windows. When your dealing with pt's on vents and tons of gtts. and plugged into monitors you are not going to be able to move them very far. You just do the best you can and hope that the tornado does not hit you. Luckily it did not hit, but you could look out the window and see the wall cloud and the rotation.
  8. by   almccormick
    Thanks to everyone for their replies. I am a fairly new grad and was working with some seasoned nusres last night who stated that they would readily abandon their pts and head for the lowest level. I did not feel that this was the 'right' thing to do. They are predicting a huge storm cell to hit here in Nebraska again tonite. We are a new facility and our policy and procedures are still a work in process but it does state that someone has to stay!

    My conscious tells me to stay and at least I will be at the top of the rubble!
  9. by   smk1
    not a nurse but i would think that it would be to the hospitals benefit to get all of the patients to the safest place available (hall blocking windows etc..) then get the staff to the safest place possible that they are able to get to (basement, storm shelter etc..) if the storm hits and there are lots of injuries you have a lot better chance of helping those patients if doctors and nurses were safe, and not injured along with everyone else. I know it seems kind of cold but since everybody can't get down to the basement you just do what you can.
  10. by   Gompers
    This topic is of great interest to me, as I have a horrible fear of tornados and live in the Midwest. I have had no less than 5 nightmeres about being on the unit and seeing a tornado headed straight for us - just last week I had one where my NM was on the intercom announcing that we were "scheduled to have a tornado at exactly 3:04am" like it was no big deal. In my dream, I just took off running down the stairs, chicken that I am. One whole wall of the unit is completely windows, so it's not like we can get away from them. Just how are we supposed to mobilize 40-something level III neonates in the few minutes that you have before the tornado hits? Some kids, yeah, we can grab and run with, pretty easy since our most central room with no windows is actually the large supply room filled with portable O2 tanks. But I don't see us pushing isolettes and oscillators around or anything.

    Anyone with tornado experience - the wall of windows in the unit faces north. I always thought that storms come from the south or west. We have south and west windows, but none are in patient care areas. So do you think we'd be fine? This is such a fear for me.
  11. by   BRANDY LPN
    I once worked with a nurse who said about 20 years ago she was in a LTC facility when a tornado hit, they lost several residents and she told of running around DURING the tornado caring for injured pts while large concrete blocks flew around her head.
  12. by   movealong
    My last job was in a tornadoe prone area. I did telephone triage there, so there was no direct patient care. What was bad was that we couldn't always hear the sirens going off inside the building. So I put weatherbug on my desktop and kept a portable radio in my cube. Weatherbug alerts with a chirping sound for severe weather, so when that would go off, I would turn on the radio....I was pretty lucky, we would just turn the phones over to an answering system and head for the proper safe room/area.

    Ever since 9/11, I've made myself a little more prepared. I carry around a mag flashlight, a small radio and extra batterries in a little kit at all times. Fits right into my purse. I have a phobia about not being able to see and not being able to know/hear what's going on. I have also have a kit in my car with the same stuff, only with first aid stuff and some food and water items as well. I had similiar kits in California for earthquakes. If it ain't one thing, it's another. I like being prepared.

    Now I work from home, so direct patient care is not an issue for me. I let them know I have to get off the phones and seek shelter. We're expecting severe weather again later today. We've been pounded by storms all last week. Tornadoes missed us so far. Just my basement flooded and I got it cleaned up. Hope I don't have to do it again.
    Last edit by movealong on May 30, '04
  13. by   odatrn
    Check your facilities policy book. There will be one that deals with the procedure you would take in the event there is a storm severe enough to move patients to a more secure area.
  14. by   Houstonnurse
    I was raised in Oklahoma, and spent my formative years/nights (sic) in a torando shelter. I remember coming up from the shelter and seeing the comforting green light on the downtown tower that signaled "All Clear" for our town.
    In my heart, I don't think I could ever abandon anyone that would be comforted by my presence, or just words.
    But at the last minute, (especially if I knew it was a "5" coming straight at me), my brain would take over, and I'd probably run like hell!
    Survival is personal something we can't predict how we would deal with until it happens, and I don't think ANY POLICY will make us just stand there if we think standing there would kill us.

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