ANA Comments on Nursing Care During Hurricane Katrina

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September 27, 2006

 ANA is very supportive of the nurses who stayed and cared for patients during and after Hurricane Katrina in September, 2005, as well as nurses who supported these efforts in other ways. Disasters place nurses in unfamiliar and unusual conditions within the health care environment that may necessitate adaptations to recognized standards of nursing practice. ANA is not in a position to comment on the specifics of any situation that occurred during Hurricane Katrina.

We do know that the conditions for rendering nursing care immediately after Hurricane Katrina were horrendous, and it is difficult to judge retrospectively some of the care provided under those awful circumstances. We also know that in our criminal justice system, defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty. A fundamental principle of the ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses is that the interests of the patient are paramount. All nurses should act to protect the best interests of their patients.

ANA acknowledges that nurses are individually accountable and responsible for their actions. All nurses should use the Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements (2001) as a foundational document for guiding their decisions. The Code of Ethics for Nurses is a succinct statement of the ethical obligations and duties for every registered nurse. It is what gives each of us honor and respect, dignity and authority, and what serves as the solid foundation from which we are all empowered to support our nation's health care system.

It is also the profession's non-negotiable ethical standard, and it stands as an expression of nursing’s own understanding of its commitment to society. Updated in 2001, the Code of Ethics for Nurses contains nine major provisions that reflect the issues facing nurses in the nation's current health care environment, as well as their unchanging mission to provide quality care.

Additionally, ANA strongly encourages all nurses to have in hand our other foundational documents which set the standards for the nursing profession - standards that are excellent tools for nurse empowerment. As the keystone of the ANA standards, Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice delineates the professional responsibilities for all practicing registered nurses, regardless of setting. It discusses the scope of all nursing practice and presents a set of professional clinical practice and performance standards. It also offers a framework by which specialty organizations and ANA can co-develop practice standards and guidelines.

Lastly, Nursing's Social Policy Statement defines nursing, identifies the scope of its practice, its relationship with society, its contributions to health care and its obligation to the public.

ANA encourages all nurses to participate in the discussion about the adaptations of the standards of nursing practice necessitated during a disaster, such as Katrina. As a result, ANA is currently commissioning a major in-depth review of altered standards of care and potential adaptations of nursing practice during disasters. A panel of experts will be convened to guide policy development in this area. ANA has determined that the focus of the inaugural 2007 ANA Quadrennial Policy Conference, "Nursing Care in Life, Death and Disaster"scheduled for June 20-22, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia will be on altered standards of care during a disaster.