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Keywords:

  • community;
  • constructionism;
  • disasters;
  • healing;
  • relief work

Cox H M. International Journal of Nursing Practice 1997; 3: 218–223

Disaster relief work: Nurses and others in bushfire territory

This paper describes one aspect of a study into the experiences in long-term healing of a community following the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfire. Forty participants were interviewed, of whom 26 were residents and 14 disaster relief workers. The paper concentrates on the experiences of the latter, describing how they came to understand the bushfire affected the community and how they managed disaster work. For novices it was a profoundly difficult experience, for which they received little help and had to manage with whatever skill they drew on in their ‘normal’ working lives, mixed with a good deal of intuition. The paper suggests that health workers in vulnerable areas require preparation for a likely disaster; that ‘outsiders’ need to deal through existing community groups and individuals to gain access to those in need of their skills, and that they also require preparation for helping ‘insiders’ who are themselves victims of the catastrophe.