Nurses should ensure their own safety before acting as a first responder in a terrorist incident, according to guidance from the Royal College of Nursing.
Following recent terrorist incidents, the RCN said it had issued guidance for nurses and midwives on how to respond to what it referred to as “unexpected incidents and emergencies”.
“It is essential that you first assess your environment and ensure it is safe for you”
It advised its members that it is “essential” that they assess any threats to themselves before considering providing care to potential victims.
“As a nurse or midwife, your first instinct is often to go to the aid of others in need,” noted the college.
However, it said it was “essential that you first assess your environment and ensure it is safe for you”, adding: “If it is not, you should move to a place of safety.
“You should then ensure that you or someone close to you has contacted the emergency services,” said the RCN. “Only then should you consider providing care if it is safe to do so.”
The advice, distributed yesterday evening, comes in the wake of news that Kirsty Boden, an Australian nurse working at Guy’s Hospital and an RCN member, had been killed while going to the aid of victims of the knife attacks in the London Bridge area on Saturday night.
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The RCN added that there was “no expectation” that nurses or midwives should “put their own safety at risk”, in such situations.
The college highlighted that this was backed up by the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s code of practice, which stated that nurses and midwives “must take account of their own safety”.
In addition, it said nursing staff that did go to help when it was safe to do so should not act outside “the limits of your knowledge and competence”.
“Not all nurses are qualified first aiders but they may be able to support other members of the emergency services or those injured or distressed in other ways,” said the RCN guidance.
“There is no expectation that a nurse or midwife will put their own safety at risk”
Meanwhile, the British Association for Immediate Care said that, following the attacks in Manchester and London, its members “stand ready to assist if called upon in their area”.
“Once again amidst the terrible tragedy of mindless murder and injury we have witnessed incredible scenes of rescue and care from those in the immediate area and the 999 emergency services,” it said in a statement on 6 June.
It also called on members to spread the message of what to do in the “unlikely event of a terrorist incident”, emphasising that such attacks were “rare but that we do need to be prepared”.
The BASICS statement highlighted information resources available from Citizen Aid and the government’s official guidance of “run, hide, tell”, saying:
- Run away – Do not stop to take photographs or video the events unfolding
- Hide – Get undercover, if possible lock/barricade yourself and those you are with away from the main thoroughfare, even then hide. These attacks are fast moving and it is unlikely that a terrorist will take time to break down doors etc to gain entry to search out victims – they prey on those in front of them
- Tell – As soon as you are safely away from the area/hidden dial 999. As we have seen police and medical help is extremely rapid
RCN guidance in full:
There may be occasions where you find yourself involved in an unexpected incident or emergency outside your normal place of work where people may require care.
As a nurse or midwife, your first instinct is often to go to the aid of others in need. However, it is important that if you find yourself in an unclear situation you follow official government guidance.
It is essential that you first assess your environment and ensure it is safe for you. If it is not, you should move to a place of safety. You should then ensure that you or someone close to you has contacted the emergency services. Only then should you consider providing care if it is safe to do so.
There is no expectation that a nurse or midwife will put their own safety at risk. The NMC Code makes it clear that nurses and midwives must take account of their own safety, the safety of others and the availability of other options for providing care (this may include paramedics, ambulance crews or military personal on the scene of an incident or emergency).
You may be able to help or assist in this type of situation but you should always follow the advice of the emergency services at the scene of an incident or emergency and find a place of safety if told to do so.
If near or at your place of work, you should always follow your employers emergency and major incident planning policies.
When delivering any type of care it is important that you only act within the limits of your knowledge and competence. It is acknowledged that not all nurses are qualified first aiders but they may be able to support other members of the emergency services or those injured or distressed in other ways.