Travel Nursing in a Disaster

Disaster nursing

Disasters, floods, fire, tornadoes, and earthquake disasters are all to familiar in the US.  Last year the flooding in Louisiana demonstrated how resilient people can be.  The floods now in Texas have affected thousands of people and disaster relief is starting to pour in to help the people in the area.

As a nurse we are among the first to respond to a disaster. If you live in the area or if you are on  assignment it is normal jump in and help.  During a natural disaster and in the aftermath providing care is a challenge at best.  Working conditions in a disaster are generally less than ideal. Patient care in these times are demanding for nurses, working in disaster response situations brings satisfaction to a nursing career.

Providing Aide

Nurses have volunteered during hurricanes, earthquakes and at ground zero on 9/11 in New York City. Travel Nurses from all across the country have accepted travel assignments in disaster and crisis response situations.  These assignments can push their nursing career to the next level.

Even though the work can be difficult the camaraderie among the nursing staff helps keep you grounded. Facilities in these disaster prone areas generally have a high level of preparation with disaster policies in place. A nurse working in a disaster response situation is challenged when using their clinical skill set.  They will be tested on their personal composure under intense pressure and ability to function with sleep deprivation.

Housing in a disaster

Temporary housing while on assignment may be less than desirable in some instances. Many times the  crisis situation makes it difficult for the nurses to even leave their facility. Depending on the situation and severity of the disaster crisis the customary housing may not be available.  Nurses may have to sleep in the facility where assigned if the situation makes it impossible to leave


Disaster response assignments are generally the same on many levels as regular short-term rapid response assignments. Depending on the situation response times and living conditions can vary due to the uncertainty of the situation.   The length of the assignment may be three days (72 hours straight) or six months as in Hurricane Katrina. The severity of the disaster and the community’s ability to get back on its feet will determine the length of time extra nursing help may be needed.

Be prepared

Nurses interested in working disaster response assignments should have all of their paperwork, certifications and credentials on file and up-to-date.  They may be called upon to work at a moment’s notice.  Be prepared with everything you need to travel for an assignment. Keep current immunizations, license, certifications, references and any other documentation you would need for a travel assignment.  Stay in touch with your agency and let them know you’re available and interested in working these types of assignments. States generally require you to have the appropriate license to work as a nurse in that state, but can put wave that for disaster relief.

Disaster response assignments help nurses gain valuable clinical skills in addition to giving experienced nurses a chance to help others, .  Nurses take care of other people’s families even when they are desperately worried about their own.  Nurses must remain strong and managing their fear and concern.   They have concern for the welfare of their family, patients, and colleagues as well while in the disaster mode.

If you have the time to travel for disaster relief reach out to your nurse travel agency and let them know.  If you do not have an agency check ou our list of agencies to find one that has an opening.

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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a Registered Nurse and retired US Army Reserve Nurse Major. She has more than 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career, she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and to South Korea. She was trained as an Army Medic during the Vietnam era and later as an OR tec. She went on to become a Licensed Practical Nurse and then completed her nursing training as a Registered Nurse. She was then commissioned as an officer in the Army Reserves. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and work in other medical facilities. During her career, she had the opportunity to work in several specialties to include, OR, Occupational Health, Hospice, Sexual Assault Team, Forensic/ Correctional Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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