EDUCATION
August 21, 2017

Terror Attacks: Nurses Must Be Prepared

By Amy Blitchok

The Barcelona terror attack that took place on August 17th, 2017 was one of the deadliest events in that city’s recent history. It left 13 people dead, more than 100 injured, and an entire globe on high alert. Once again, people realized that terror can strike anywhere, at any moment.

Locals and tourists were enjoying the evening along a popular tree-lined promenade flanked by shops and restaurants in the Las Ramblas district when a white Fiat van plowed directly into the crowd.

It was a chaotic scene as people tried to get out of the way of the van and then immediately turned to help those who were injured. One nurse, identified only as Albert, began working with a doctor to resuscitate a little boy.

Despite the ensuing panic and chaos, Albert immediately fell back on his nursing instincts and provided care in the most unexpected of places and circumstances. Though they made a valiant effort, they were unable to resuscitate the little boy. Photos from the Mirror UK clearly show the nurse's heartbreak as he begins to absorb the scale and gravity of what had just occurred.

Terror Knows No Borders

Unfortunately, it looks as though these terror attacks will continue to happen and target the places where we feel safest and most able to let our guard down.

In fact, Finland is now sorting through the events that led to a fatal stabbing attack. If these attacks still seem isolated and spread out, consider the statistic of 866 reported attacks that have caused 5,224 deaths across the world so far in 2017. It would be foolish to think that anyone is immune or that an attack couldn’t happen on your doorstep.

The Medical and Professional Challenges of a Terrorist Attack

That being said, there is a difference between giving into fear and being prepared. When an attack occurs, nurses and other medical professionals will encounter a whole new set of emotional challenges while also having to worry about their own safety.

These attacks often happen in large public spaces, which means that an uncontrolled, chaotic environment. Police may be working simultaneously to safely evacuate people and secure the scene in order to preserve any evidence and allow victims to receive medical attention. Providing care in the field also requires resourcefulness with working with what you have on hand.All of these circumstances combine to create a unique situation that has no comparison in a typical medical setting.

All of these circumstances combine to create a unique situation that has no comparison in a typical medical setting.

How You Can Be Prepared

As part of their commitment to professional development and providing the absolute best in available care, nurses need to prepare for terrorist attacks and the possibility of a dangerous scene with mass casualties.It all begins with taking an Emergency Preparedness course. These free courses are often offered by your state's hospital and nursing associations.

You should also become familiar with the National Terrorism Advisory System, which coordinates efforts between government agencies and first responders. 


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Don’t Get In The Way

If and when a terrorist attack does occur near you, it is important that you deploy to the scene only through an organized response system. A rush of people, whether they can provide help or not, will only cause more confusion and there is no way to verify credentials. 

Sadly, up to 10% of people who show up at an accident scene claiming to be nurses do so fraudulently. The best way to help is to work with local medical facilities and make sure that you are part of a coordinated effort.

Obviously, if you are present when the attacks occur, you should render as much immediate aid as you feel comfortable with.

No one wants to accept terror attacks as a part of life, but there are steps that can be taken to prepare for the worst. Nurses should receive the training they need to become part of response teams that can quickly address the needs of the injured and prevent as many causalities as possible.

Hopefully, no one will ever have to experience what Albert did as he worked to care for those around him. Realistically though, this won’t be the last time a nurse is called on during an attack. The only course of action is not to give into fear while also preparing for the worst.

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