A moment in time: emergency nurses and the Canterbury earthquakes

Authors

  • S. Richardson RGON, BA, Dip Heal Sci, Dip Tert Teach, PhD,

    Senior Lecturer, Nurse Researcher, Corresponding author
    1. Emergency Department, Canterbury District Health Board, Christchurch, New Zealand
    • Centre for Postgraduate Nursing Studies, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand
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  • M. Ardagh ONZM, MB, ChB, PhD, DCH, FACEM,

    Professor of Emergency Medicine
    1. Department of Surgery, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand
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  • P. Grainger RCompN, Dip.H.E.Nursing (adult), MN (Clinical),

    Nurse Coordinator, Projects
    1. Emergency Department, Canterbury District Health Board, Christchurch, New Zealand
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  • V. Robinson RCompN, BA

    Clinical Nurse Specialist (HIV/HCV)
    1. Department of Infectious Diseases, Christchurch Hospital, Canterbury District Health Board, Christchurch, New Zealand
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  • Funding: This project received funding for the transcription of participant interviews from the Emergency Care Foundation, a charitable foundation for the support of emergency medicine and nursing research.
  • Conflict of interest: No conflict of interest has been declared by the author(s).
  • Ethics: Formal ethical approval was received from the NZ Multi-region Ethics Committee to undertake interviews with emergency department staff (Ref No. MEC/11/EXP/016).

Correspondence address: Sandra Richardson, C/- Emergency Department, Christchurch Hospital, Private Bag 4710, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand; Tel: 0064 3 3640275 (work) 0064 3 3842889 (home); Fax: 0064 3 3640606; E-mail: sandra.richardson@cdhb.govt.nz.

Abstract

Aim

To outline the impact of the Canterbury, New Zealand (NZ) earthquakes on Christchurch Hospital, and the experiences of emergency nurses during this time.

Background

NZ has experienced earthquakes and aftershocks centred in the Canterbury region of the South Island. The location of these, around and within the major city of Christchurch, was unexpected and associated with previously unknown fault lines. While the highest magnitude quake occurred in September 2010, registering 7.1 on the Richter scale, it was the magnitude 6.3 event on 22 February 2011 which was associated with the greatest injury burden and loss of life. Staff working in the only emergency department in the city were faced with an external emergency while also being directly affected as part of the disaster.

Sources of Evidence

This paper developed following interviews with nurses who worked during this period, and draws on literature related to healthcare responses to earthquakes and natural disasters. The establishment of an injury database allowed for an accurate picture to emerge of the injury burden, and each of the authors was present and worked in a clinical capacity during the earthquake.

Discussion

Nurses played a significant role in the response to the earthquakes and its aftermath. However, little is known regarding the impact of this, either in personal or professional terms. This paper presents an overview of the earthquakes and experiences of nurses working during this time, identifying a range of issues that will benefit from further exploration and research. It seeks to provide a sense of the experiences and the potential meanings that were derived from being part of this ‘moment in time’.

Conclusion

Examples of innovations in practice emerged during the earthquake response and a number of recommendations for nursing practice are identified.

Ancillary