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Shout Out to the Nurses Taking Care of Post 9/11 Patients

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The human psyche is easily affected by events that happen to us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Some people innately are able to navigate what life throws at them, others struggle. Either way we are changed forever, deep down the memories, smells, and sounds never goes away. As one would expect, the survivors of 9/11 are still dealing with the effects of what they experienced on that tragic day.

Shout Out to the Nurses Taking Care of Post 9/11 Patients

In an article by NurseZone, the nurses that died on 9/11 are listed along with small bios. I want to give respect to those nurses, if you want more information on them, see the reference listed at the end of this article.

**Touri Bolourchi, Lydia Estelle Bravo, Ronald Bucca, Gregory Buck, Christine Egan, Carol Flyzik, Debra Lynn Fischer Gibbon, Geoffrey Guja, Stephen Huczko, Kathy Mazza, Michael D. Mullan**


According to the article by the Commissioner of the NY City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, "What We Know About the Health Effects of 9/11," after over ten years of studying post 9/11 patients, the greater portion of people have no health problems related to their exposure of the World Trade Center disaster. For the remaining residents, rescue workers, and clean up people, there are many problems they still deal with such as mental health, cancer, and respiratory issues.

The dust from the towers that collapsed along with the smoke from the months of burning debris exposed patients to thousands of toxins and contaminants. The World Trade Center Health Program was developed in order to provide these patients with proper testing and medical care.

Mental Health

As would be expected, PTSD is one of the most common health effect related to 9/11 with 20% of patients experiencing symptoms (four times more than the general population). Those at highest risk were the long term rescue and recovery workers at the WTC. Those who lost jobs, family, witnessed horror, those with little social support, those who suffered injury, exposure to the dust cloud, and working on a high floor were some of the many reasons for PTSD.

Yuval Neria In her article, "Long-Term Course of Probable PTSD After the 9/11 Attacks: A Study in Urban Primary Long Care," states that disasters carried out with premeditated intent such as 9/11 cause it's victims greater psychological problems. In fact, unlike other PTSD cases, the ones following 9/11 saw an increase in post tragedy. In the 2-3 years after 9/11 there were 12.1% of the victims reporting problems and at 5-6 years the number increased to 19.5%. For future treatment of post disaster patients, the author recommends "timely intervention" to prevent long-term and persistent mental health problems.


Joseph Straw writes in the article, "Post-9/11 cancer list to treat people exposed to Ground Zero expands" that there are over sixty cancers credited to their exposure on 9/11. We know as nurses that some cancers don't manifest until many years later, so last year they added brain, testicular, cervical, and pancreatic cancer to the already scary long list.

Respiratory Issues

As we would expect, lung problems rank high among the survivors and Ground Zero workers. In the article, "Years later, 9/11 rescue workers still show decreased lung function," by Denise Mann, we see that many years after 9/11 lung problems continue. These declines in lung function require monitoring because of the high risk of future lung problems. Pre 9/11 lung function tests on 12,000 workers were compared to post 9/11 lung tests finding that their lung function decreased equivalent to twelve years of aging.

Upper respiratory problems such as sinusitis, vocal cord dysfunction, and laryngitis was found among 84% of the post 9/11 patients. Lower respiratory disorders like asthma, called World Trade Center cough is found in 47%.

Nursing Role

In the article, " Nurses Continue to Care for World Trade Center Workers Years Later," by Debra Wood a poignant picture of the nurse's role is given in the care for rescue workers post 9/11 telling us that the "trauma remains close at hand."

A program has been developed called WTC Health Program treating over 72,000 patients. It is run by Jessica Harns FNP who states that the patients have become very comfortable coming back to get treatment, "these patients feel like they are coming home to us, knowing they are not alone."

These nurses provide teaching, annual health assessments, blood work, pulmonary function tests, and chest X-rays. Mickie Brown, RN, puts it this way, "It's very rewarding and in some circumstances sad. We develop relationships with patients."


Nurses rock.

That is the long and short of it. The nurses caring for post 9/11 patients are dealing with the trauma experienced by these people as well as the physical trauma and the possibilities of future problems. Nurses don't focus on one aspect of the patient, but take the whole person into consideration. That is what makes the nursing profession so special. The set of nurses that deal with post 9/11 patients have a tough job and a wonderful opportunity to learn from them, creating a very close bond with each other.


"A Message from the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene." 2015. 9/11 Health. 24 September, 2015. Web.

Mann, Denise. "Years later, 9/11 rescue workers still show decreased lung function." April 7, 2010. Health.com. 24 September, 2015. Web.

Neria, Yuvai, et al. "Long Term Course of Probable PTSD After the 9/11 Attacks: A Study in Urban Primary Care." 27 April, 2013. HHS Public Access. 24 September, 2015. Web.

West, Larry. "9/11 Terrorist Attack Left Rescue Workers with Problems." Nd. About.com. 24 September, 2015. Web.

Wood, Debra, RN. "Nurses Continue to Care for World Trade Center Workers Years Later." NurseZone.com. Nd. 24 September, 2015. Web.

4 Likes, 5 Followers, 67 Articles, 102,907 Visitors, and 239 Posts.

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Thank you very much for this excellent article. I don't want to put personal medical details online, but I can say with certainty that the WTC Health Program does a good job and yes -- nurses rock.

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