International Nurses Day 2017: True, personal stories from nursing researchers

We’re honoring International Nurses Day this week (May 12th) with a spotlight on our incredible nursing researchers. Read and listen to true, personal stories told by nurses themselves! 






Madrean Schober, PhD, MSN, BGS, ANP, FAANP, a global healthcare consulting expert reflects on the roles she’s adopted in her life, including how the emerging position of nurse practitioner had an unparalleled impact on her career. Listen to her story below!


Sheila Bonito shares her experience living in a developing country and working as a nurse in a community that’s all too familiar with natural disasters. Read her story below!

Written by Sheila Bonito

One would think that people involved with working in disasters must be brave and courageous.  I am not.  I took up nursing because I could not make the commute to a farther campus, where I would suffer from motion sickness riding the bus.  I do not faint from the sight of blood but the idea of being pricked by a needle sends a nervous tingle through my body. Somehow I was able to survive nursing school and was able to work in the surgical intensive care unit in the Philippine’s premier tertiary hospital.  I never had first-hand experience working as a staff nurse in disaster times, but living in a developing country where natural hazards are common, I have memories of typhoons where the first floor of our house was flooded. We even had to take in neighbours to live with us on the second floor.  I have felt the tremor of a mighty earthquake that struck several buildings miles away from me.  I have seen the majestic eruption of Mayon Volcano and witnessed the ash fall that Mt Pinatubo caused.  And I have experienced working with limited supplies and sometimes long power outages when even hospital generators were not enough. I’ve even had to do manual compression of an ambubag for patients in need of respirators. But these experiences were at least under “normal” circumstances.  I know that working in a hospital during disasters is a lot worse.

Through the many years of living in a country with all these natural hazards, one becomes either desensitized to the threat or one gets immersed in the work needed to prevent, mitigate and prepare individuals and communities.  I chose the latter.  I have worked with the Health Emergency Management Staff of the Department of Health and the Emergency Humanitarian Action of World Health Organization in mounting campaigns to raise awareness on Safe Hospitals and document major disasters in the country in order to learn from them.  I have also had the privilege of working with nurse leaders in the Asia Pacific Disaster Nursing Network (APEDNN) where the contribution of nurses and midwives in disaster preparedness, response and recovery are very important.  In 2008, I was involved together with nurses from APEDNN in training Chinese nurses on psychological first aid to help in caring for survivors of the Sichuan earthquake. Since then, APEDNN has been working with nurse leaders to build capacities of nurses and midwives in emergencies and disasters.

Strengthened by the experience in APEDNN, I accepted the responsibility to be Chair of the Disaster Preparedness Committee of the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) from 2010 – 2016.  The work was voluntary but crucial since PNA is the national nursing association.  In 2011, we helped in supporting victims of Typhoon Sendong (Typhoon Washi) that killed 1249 in Cagayan de Oro through psychological first aid and provision of relief medications and supplies.  In 2012 we also helped local nurses in Davao face the challenge of helping victims of Typhoon Pablo (Typhoon Bopha) that killed 1067 and displaced nearly 200,000 people.  In 2013, we faced an even greater challenge, helping survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Typhoon Haiyan).

Typhoon Haiyan was the world’s strongest storm in recent history, that killed 6,300 people and affected about 11 million people.  I remember monitoring the news as the super typhoon traversed the country.  We thought we were spared the worst since we did not hear right away the devastation that happened in Tacloban due to power and communication failures.  Immediately after hearing what happened, we started coordinating with national agencies and with our local nurses to mount whatever support we can extend to the survivors.  We never dreamed of being able to go to the disaster site knowing how difficult the situation was.  And yet we had the opportunity of helping first hand when survivors were airlifted from Tacloban and brought to Manila.  We organized nurses to meet these survivors and help them through rapid health assessment, psychological first aid and reuniting them with relatives and friends in Metro Manila. PNA also initiated a call for donations for affected nurses and communities. We issued a call for nurse volunteers for deployment to affected areas.  We used social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, in issuing calls for donations and volunteers.  PNA demonstrated its role to coordinate preparedness, response and recovery efforts to demonstrate a strong collective action of nurses in emergency and disasters.

Working with people in times of emergencies/ disasters is an eye opening experience that teaches you the importance of always being ready.  The publication of The Role of nurses in Disaster Management in Asia Pacificthe ten case studies in Asia Pacific describing the work of nurses in disaster preparedness, response and recovery, highlights the different roles nurses occupy in helping save lives and supporting communities build back up better.  I hope that these case studies inspire more nurses to get involved in emergency and disaster nursing work.

Visit the Springer page for more on International Nurses Day!