Nurses recall work in war zones and in aftermath of natural disasters

Students at RCN congress fringe event hear how working in military and international aid roles ‘will change you’.

Two leading nurses shared their experiences of nursing in war zones and natural disaster areas at an RCN congress event.

The nurses shared their experiences of nursing in extreme situations, such as the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, pictured. Picture: iStock

RCN fellow Fiona Stephenson and RCN professional lead for acute, emergency and critical care Anna Crossley spoke about their respective careers in international aid and the military at a fringe event for nursing students on Monday.

Clinical nurse specialist Ms Stephenson, an international training coordinator at the spinal injury rehabilitation centre in Dorset, spoke about her work helping victims of the earthquakes in Haiti in 2010 and Nepal in 2015.

Severe environments

‘It is all about providing safe, appropriate care for patients in very severe and austere environments,’ she said.

‘You want your voice to be heard, you want to advocate for your patients. It will change you as a person, I can guarantee it. It certainly changed me.’

Her advice to the students was to ‘always write down what you have done, because it is your evidence of good nursing care’. 

‘My mantra has always been if it is not written down, then it hasn’t happened,’ she said.

Ms Stephenson, who is currently recruiting nurses for a new spinal injury centre in Dorset, also said she believes two extra Cs should be added to the 6Cs of nursing; continence and career.

Tours of duty

Ms Crossley outlined her career since qualifying in 2003, including joining the Royal Army Nursing Corps and attaining the rank of captain.

She carried out two tours of duty in Afghanistan as a nurse and translator, as well as an engagement officer tasked with building relationships with local women.

She said: ‘They saw a white woman, surrounded by 300 boys, wearing boys’ clothes, doing a boy’s job, speaking the local language Pashto, and they weren’t ready for that.’

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