Courage and selflessness in professional actions: but are they enough?


  • J.K. Alder-Collins REMT, PGCE, RN, PhD

    Associate Professor, Corresponding author
    • Health Promotion Centre, Fukuoka Prefectural University, Tagawa, Japan
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    • Also, the author is an Associate Editor for the International Nursing Review; President of the non-profit organization, Integrative Care Education and Research Association (ICERA); and Adjunct Professor of Nursing in Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, School of Nursing. He served 14 years as a Registered Nurse in the Royal Army Medical Corps of the British Army, and qualified as a Nuclear Biological and Chemical Warfare instructor (NBC) and Nuclear Biological Chemical Cell Operator and Controller.

Correspondence address: Dr Je Kan Alder-Collins, Fukuoka Prefectural University, Health Promotion Centre, Ita 4395, Tagawa 825-8585, Japan; Tel: 81 947 422 1367; Fax: 81 947 422 1367; E-mail:



The Great East Japan Earthquake on 11 March 2011 caused considerable loss of life, destruction of livelihood and infrastructure. Linked to this event but not its cause, was the meltdown and radioactive contamination of the environment from Fukishima Dai-ichi power plant. This disaster, in turn, led to the enforced evacuation of populations at risk. Japanese nurses, physicians, paramedical staff and faculty from nearby universities all volunteered to staff decontamination centres for evacuees and survivors.


This commentary critically reflects on the insights provided in this issue by Noto, Kitamiya, Itaki, Urushizaka & Yamabe (pp. 196–200) on the role of nurses in the Fukishima Dai-ichi disaster, extending that critique to evidence that has emerged through official and unofficial sources.


Disaster planning is not a popular subject for societies in general nor is it a finite art or process. Civil authorities often work under restricted or reducing budgets and resources while serving increasing demands. Disaster planning requires multidisciplinary skills sets to be able to work across the many different departments, agencies, interest groups and budgets. Planners need to think outside the box, allocate resources and training to a level that justifies known and/or projected threats in preparing first responders with the correct tools, training and time to practise skills they may never be called upon to use.


Disasters will always happen be they natural or man-made. To rely on the courage and selflessness of professionals is not enough. Training and learning from previous disasters can help in responsible planning.