On September 28, 2022, Hurricane Ian devastated southern Florida, killing at least 119 people, disrupting power to more than four million customers, and causing tens of billions of dollars in damage.
Ranking high among the victims of the storm were Florida’s nurses. And at the forefront helping them to recover is Nurse Tara Kosmas and her group, Debriefing the Front Lines. Debriefing the Front Lines is a nonprofit devoted to helping the emotional health of healthcareworkers. Emma at Incredible Health spoke with her on an Instagram Live chat.
Responding to Disaster
While Debriefing the Front Line’s main focus is on healing the unique and complex occupational trauma that affects nurses collectively, the organization also recognizes the need for post-traumatic response recovery following disasters.
Hurricane Ian left Florida’s nurses — already struggling with physical, emotional, and spiritual symptoms of cumulative caretaking trauma — with a lack of food, water, or shelter, Kosmas said.
“There are nurses, healthcare workers, people of all kinds who have lost their homes,” she said. “Their homes are destroyed. They honestly have nothing but the clothes on their back. They don’t have a toothbrush or toothpaste. They don’t have tampons. They don’t have toilet paper. All the things that you need to be human. And they lack these things while they’re also going into work, expected to care for other people.”
Kosmas and her husband responded immediately after Ian struck. They rented a U-Haul truck, loaded it with $3,000 worth of supplies, and drove south from Baltimore. Since then, the group has conducted a needs assessment that resulted in the group collecting over $10,000 in donations, with hopes of raising $25,000 by the end of the year.
They have delivered basic essentials to hospital units where nurses have been hit the hardest, including toilet paper, paper towels, food, soap, toothpaste, and hot meals. Kosmas explained that the group’s current focus is on night shift nurses because they found that there were more resources available to day shift staff. They have also set up an Amazon wish list that has helped them get the specific supplies that they need.
Debriefing the Front Lines has also sought to provide psychological first aid to nurses and other healthcare workers. They have begun offering informal text sessions and debriefings on a limited basis. Kosmas is also working with other nonprofits to coordinate three mental health sanctuaries that they hope will go live within the next two weeks. “As the needs move from basic physiologic we are looking at moving towards psychological and mental health,” she said. “This is going to be a long, long haul.”
How Can You Help? How Can You Find Help?
Kosmas suggested her organization’s website and Instagram bio where you can find links to their services and hurricane relief response. You can also make a financial contribution at their hurricane relief donation page.
Who is Debriefing the Front Lines?
Debriefing the Front Lines was founded to respond to nurses’ need for a psychologically safe space outside of the workplace where they could express their emotions without fear of judgment or repercussion. It was started 15 days after the global COVID-19 pandemic was declared.
In the three years since it began, the organization has gone on to provide nurses with a variety of psychological support services including structured debriefing, board-certified nurse coaching, emotional wellness offerings, and nervous system regulation tools.
- Hurricane Ian’s Path of Destruction. National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service. nesdis.noaa.gov. Accessed October 18, 2022.