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Nurse Offers Care in Disaster; Airport Rum for Antiseptic

Florence Germain travelled to Haiti to bury her father, who passed away on Christmas Day. But in a twist of fate, her journey to Haiti turned into a scramble to save lives.

"It's like a movie, running in my head slowly," she said. "Reliving everything, it's like, 'Did this really happen, did this really happen to me?'"

On Jan. 12, Germain, a 34-year-old registered nurse from Eatontown, N.J., was at the Port-au-Prince airport. She had just handed over the boarding pass for her flight from Haiti back to the United States when she felt the ground beneath her begin to shake.

Her first instinct was to protect her 3-year-old son from the collapsing ceiling, she said.

"I grabbed my son and just covered him under me and ran with him," she said.

Germain said that after what seemed like nearly half a minute of shaking, the quake finally stopped. Immediately, she and her family began looking for a way out of the collapsing airport. Then, they felt the first aftershock.

"Everything was locked down; we started panicking," she said.

Germain and her family eventually found their way to the airport parking lot, where waves of Haitian locals began bringing their wounded in search of medical care.

"They were looking for help, but there was no one to help them there," she said. "Some U.N. trucks were coming. What they could pick up, they picked up. What they could not, they left."

One man arrived in a cab. His leg had been nearly severed from his body. He was in agony; he did not want to be touched, even by those trying to help.

Germain was the one medical professional there. There were no first aid supplies available. She used what she could to fight for the man's life. She doused the wound with airport rum to discourage infection. She used clothing to improvise a bandage. She treated his pain with a bystander's Vicodin.

She offered what little care she could. Then she went back into the city, to the U.S. embassy -- where there were more of the injured.

"Nobody asked me to do anything; I was just assessing the gravity of the situation," she said.

Source (more..)

People who would do something like this because they recognize their duty to help are the ones I admire the most. This is one of the reason I want to be a nurse.

Yes, I saw this too.

If that happened in our country would that be the thing to do?

Are there laws that protect nurses from lawsuits in disaster?

Bless her.


Specializes in school RN, CNA Instructor, M/S.

Amazing stories are coming out of the horrors of Haiti. Thankfully people are their best and giving of their hearts as well as their wallets.That nurse and many others like her are blessed and are a shining example of what we are capable of! I hope I can do the same and act the same if I am ever called upon!

Purple_Scrubs, BSN, RN

Specializes in School Nursing. Has 8 years experience.

God Bless this nurse for helping. Unfortunately if this happened in the US, she would be sued by the patient and/or family when he inevitably lost his leg (or life) and would lose her license for acting outside her scope by giving the pt someone else's vicodin. Sad.


Specializes in mental health + aged care.

I'm so glad I don't live in the US where patients can sue a nurse giving their best shot! New Zealand has legal provision for a registered nurse (or anyone else for that matter) to act outside of their scope of practice in an emergency situation. It is only for gross negligence that one could be done in this situation. Gross negligence is not acting when you see someone needing help


Has 2 years experience.

It's funny how people in the U.S. are so "sue happy". I admire Florence for what she did.

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 43 years experience.

Aren't there still "Good Samaritan Laws" in place in the US to cover nurses in such circumstances? I thought those laws still gave us reasonable protection as long as we acted in a reasonable way.

Sure there are. But here in the U.S. it is illegal to prescribe (which is essentially what she did giving the patient vicodin) and dispense medicine without a license. If I come up on a car crash and I happen to have a bottle of percocet on me, doesn't mean I can give the car crash victim a couple of pills to tide them over, even if I'm reasonably certain that I would not cause the patient harm. Matter of fact, as a nurse I can't even give a friend a tylenol of mine. If I were a regular joe, its no problem. But since I have a license to take away, I can't do it.

So that's what pp are referring to. I sincerely hope no one decides to make this nurse's life hell for what she did in that situation, I would've done the same. I just probably wouldn't have mentioned the vicodin.

What she did was practice austere management, something the nursing boards would never encourage because it would take too much authority away from them. Some of us are trained to think outside the box, but most have only what they were taught in school to work from. As I am fond of telling my patients on occasion we aren't here to treat you, we're here to treat your attorneys.


Yeah, here she would be sued, glued, and tattooed. Practicing Medicine without a license, violating Pharmacy law, on and on.

Why is she so stupid as to make public what she did? Why not just do it quietly and shut up and fade into the background? I guess she figures it was ok since it wasn't here in America. But I'll bet anything that she's going to regret helping once her state BON gets wind of her actions. Maddening that it's like this, but that's the reality. I hope the person she helped is ok.


Specializes in Med/Surg. Has 4 years experience.

Would the rum be considered out of the scope of practice as well?


Specializes in Med/Surg, Geriatric, Hospice. Has 11 years experience.

I wish nursing in the US could be like this. In an emergency situation on US soil, I doubt she would have acted in the same way.. who knows. I'd have been terrified of repercussions. What if he had an allergy to Vicodin and died or ended up having his whole leg amputated? Somehow, you know it'd come back to the first one providing care here, the nurse, even though she wasn't required to and did it out of the goodness of her heart- its really f'ing sad!!! Makes you sick actually... We've all heard stories of Samaritan nurses getting completely screwed for trying to help someone out, who then sues when they really SHOULDN'T have a case.


Specializes in Med/Surg, Geriatric, Hospice. Has 11 years experience.

Would the rum be considered out of the scope of practice as well?

Ha, probably- we need a Dr's order for even a BAND AIDE here...


Specializes in Midwifery, women's health. Has 4 years experience.

I don't know - I was trained as a wilderness first responder, and we were allowed to do certain things (like put a dislocated joint back into place) if we were farther than 2 hours from a hospital that we weren't allowed to do if we were within 2 hours of medical assistance. I can't imagine that -- even in the US -- if there were a disaster which caused someone's leg to be nearly amputated and they were days from more advanced care because the infrastructure was shot to h*ll, anyone would try to cause a problem for a nurse that worked to save his life and assuage his pain. I would do the same thing this nurse did.


Specializes in NICU,ICU,ER,MS,CHG.SUP,PSYCH,GERI. Has 38 years experience.

As I am fond of telling my patients on occasion we aren't here to treat you, we're here to treat your attorneys.


That must be comforting to your patients.:confused:


Specializes in CCU, OR. Has 25 years experience.

If I'd been there, I would have done the same thing, If it had happened here, I still would have done the same thing and worried about the consequences later. In her defense, she was doing what needed doing and she was the only there who had any idea of what do to do then, there and how! Nurses with experience know a heck of a lot more than we are given credit for.

There are times when you worry about the patient first and do the best you can- she took care of an immediate bad situation the best way she could.

How can her BON take her to task for "exceeding the scope of nursing practice" when she wasn't even in the US, anyway? Given the magnitude of the disaster, she deserves praise for doing her best to take care of someone in crisis, not scolding for artificially imposed rules that would be scrapped if such a natural disaster occurred in the US.

BAAAAAAHUMBUG if the BON goes after her.

What would YOU have done in her place?