In Case of Emergency: Helping the Children of Natural Disasters

In the aftermath of the tornados that tore up various areas of the country in recent weeks and months, many have wondered how the victims will recover. Even for adults, the devastation is difficult to comprehend. The youngest victims—the children affected by natural disaster—need special care and understanding.

Without warning or time for preparation, nurses may be called on to care for children affected by natural disasters. What is required of these nurses depends on their work setting. Hospital-based nurses need to know how to meet the child’s unique physical needs. Nurses in community-based settings must understand their role—whether it be to shelter children in their environment or to evacuate them. A school nurse needs to appreciate what these children have been through and that their psychological recovery may take a long time.

“It’s critical to be prepared,” explains Dr. Tener Goodwin Veenema. “Children have unique needs, and nurses need to be aware of these needs and the resources necessary to meet them before a crisis strikes.”  

Dr. Veenema is a national advisory committee member for the American Red Cross, a senior consultant for disaster preparedness for the Administration for Children and Families of the Department of Health and Human Services, and president of the Tener Consulting Group, which specializes in emergency and disaster response. She has talked widely, most recently on CNN, about disaster response and caring for the children affected by natural disasters. 

“Any nurse who deals with children affected by a natural disaster needs to be prepared to provide expert nursing and to understand a child’s overwhelming psychological needs,” Dr. Veenema explains. “The responsibility is on the nurse to understand and appreciate the impact that disasters have on children’s physical, behavioral, and psychological well being. Nurses must educate themselves on disaster nursing and preparedness to ensure positive patient outcomes.”

ReadyRN to the Rescue

Dr. Veenema’s strong belief and experience in disaster preparedness led her to partner with Mosby to create ReadyRN: Disaster Nursing and Emergency Preparedness - the healthcare industry’s only comprehensive online disaster readiness course developed specifically for nurses. ReadyRN helps nurses to respond swiftly, competently, and decisively to any disaster or major public health emergency. It provides current, competency-based content that is appropriate for nurses across the healthcare spectrum, including those working in acute care environments, outpatient settings, and state and federal agencies. ReadyRN prepares nurses for major public health emergencies, including tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, infectious disease outbreaks, and biological, chemical, and radiological events. Beyond general information, the ReadyRN course covers information that is applicable to any catastrophe, including legal and ethical issues, psychosocial impact, crisis communications, and especially the care of children during disasters.

More information about Mosby’s ReadyRN online course is available at

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