Date of Award

Winter 12-14-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Carol Howell PhD, BS, MSN

Second Advisor

Ptlene Minick, PhD, RN

Third Advisor

Monica Swahn, PhD


First responders who participate in disaster are at risk of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Because of nurses’ unique role as professional and volunteer responders, there is a need to know more about risks of PTSD in this group.

Using a cross-sectional correlational design, associations between disaster exposure, problem focused coping (PFC), emotion-focused coping (EFC) and PTSD symptoms (Impact of Events Scale-Revised (IES-R) scale) were explored. A random sample (n= 995) was drawn from a list of nurses from the New Orleans region. Each nurse was mailed an invitation to participate in an online survey. Three post-card reminders were sent.

The sample was divided into nurses who participated in disaster activities (n=76) and those who did not (n=32). Prevalence of PTSD in the PIDA nurses was 13.2%. Almost half the PIDA nurses (48.7%) reported symptoms of PTSD, and increased use of substances to cope (31.5%). Only 9.2% sought psychological care post-event. Regression analyses, controlling for history of trauma, marital status, and gender found EFC accounted for a significant amount of the variance of symptoms of PTSD (R2 = 0.32, F (1, 67) = 25.09, p < 0.001) (B=0.4, SE=0.01, p

Prevalence of PTSD among PIDA nurses was lower than other groups of professional responders (17.4% in firefighters), but greater than the general public (6.8%). Presence of PTSD in PIDA nurses five years after Hurricane Katrina is associated with the increased use of EFC and substances.