1. Corrarino, Jane E. MS, RN

Article Content

On September 11, 2001, our nation's attention was drawn to the need for emergency preparedness. Since then there have been shocking disasters in the United States and across the globe such as Hurricane Katrina and the Asian tsunami of 2004, adding environmental threats to our list of concerns. Given the gravity of such potential events and the wealth of resources in our country, one might assume that adequate preparations are being made in both public and private healthcare arenas for future events. Are we ready? How will we get ready?


Why has MCN chosen "Disaster Preparation" as the focus for this special issue? The answer is surprisingly simple: although the nursing literature is replete with articles concerning emergency preparedness in general, there is a dearth of articles about the special emergency-related needs of maternal and pediatric populations. This issue of MCN helps you build useful skills in this area, and we hope it inspires you to advocate for more effective preparedness efforts.


Several articles in the issue report on the devastation and difficulties during and after Hurricane Katrina. The reports are nothing short of harrowing and spine chilling. The authors paint a clear and convincing picture of a healthcare system woefully unprepared for large-scale emergencies and expose a system that has a significant amount of resources devoted to it yet was easily brought to its knees and disabled by Hurricane Katrina. What saved lives of the victims? In part, the sheer will, determination, and flexibility of many people, including nurses. Although this recent daunting experience has focused attention on the need for additional skill building, the depictions leave one wondering how much has really changed since that devastating catastrophe.


This issue also features several articles that outline some general preparedness-related evidence significant to women and children's health that should be incorporated into your nursing practice. Knowledge of the effects of chemical and biological events on women and children and mental health sequelae of disasters can make a key difference in nursing practice during and after an emergency. These areas have not been delineated so succinctly elsewhere in the nursing literature.


We know that many policy issues compete for our attention in the workplace. To intensify the focus on this arena, one of the articles provides specific components of what should be considered in order to incorporate emergency preparedness into NICU policies. So what are the take-home messages from this issue? The authors point us in the right direction:


* We need to focus on ourselves as the best resource. Bernard et al show us that teamwork made all the difference in their setting, with leadership constantly shifting and adjusting to each new emergency.


* More "out of the box" thinking is needed in disaster planning. Our healthcare system has significant monies invested in both its infrastructure and operations, but Giarratano et al demonstrate that more creative methods are required.


* We should continuously access current knowledge and information. Teran-McIver and colleagues, Quinn et al, and Schultz et al write of the importance of evolving evidence-based knowledge. This special issue of MCN is an important first step for MCH nurses, but much more evidence is necessary.


* We as MCH nurses have an obligation to continue to conduct nursing research about disaster planning and aftermath not only to be prepared but also to develop state-of-the-art skills and strategies.



Are you ready? How will you get ready? The future depends on it.