Nursing in the Aftermath of the North Bay Wildfires


Claudia Barrera is a student in the School of Nursing’s Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program. She recently shared her experiences volunteering in shelters for people displaced by the recent wildfires that devastated the North Bay.

Several weeks ago, I volunteered at two shelters that were established soon after the catastrophic wildfires affected the Santa Rosa community and neighboring towns. I collaborated in an interdisciplinary team, provided patient care and interpreted.

Advocacy was also part of my experience; a physician and I agreed that it was warmer outside than inside one of the shelters. At that time, being outside was still a risk for residents with respiratory health conditions because smoke was present and ashes fell from the sky. Upon request, the maintenance staff was able to turn on the heater, which prompted more residents to return to the shelter.

During one of the hand-off reports, I heard a lead physician make a unique request: “Assign a nurse as the team leader.” Witnessing this first hand taught me that nurses are not only tremendously valued for providing bedside patient care, but that our presence as leaders and participants in interdisciplinary healthcare teams is essential.

Among the displaced residents, although vulnerability, anxiety and fatigue were palpable in this entire community, there was also a sense of hope. I am glad that I was able to help this community and feel honored to be a part of the nursing profession.