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In a previous study the knowledge and views of nursing students on how they thought nurses, both in their professional role and as private persons, should act at a disaster site were evaluated. In the present study the practical functional role and experiences of nurses (n=16) in two major disaster situations (one ‘load and go’ and one ‘stay and play’ type of emergency situation) were assessed from personal interviews along a standardized questionnaire. Nurses more routinely involved in emergency care and nurses with no or limited previous practical experience of disaster nursing were included in the study. Leadership type actions, i.e. a systematic way of attempting to survey and to comprehend the situation What has happened, and how many injured there may be at the site of the accident, were reported by most of the experienced nurses, while inexperienced nurses were involved mainly in the immediate care of injured according to directions given by more experienced member of the emergency team. Readiness for action, reflected by having a feeling of being prepared for work at the disaster site, was experienced more often by nurses with considerable previous experience of disaster nursing than by nurses with limited experience. Negative experiences, such as feelings of being insufficient, of unreality, mental strain, and problems in understanding the organization, were commonly mentioned by the inexperienced nurses. The present study stresses the importance, for all types of nurses, of more systematic training in disaster nursing.