Aotearoa/New Zealand Doctors’ response to Whakaari/White Island volcanic eruption: Perspectives on the management and coping following a natural disaster

Nicole-Elizabeth Agustin Myr Schoombie1, Dr. Orazio  Di Bartolo1, Mr  Amber  Moazzam1, Mr  Paul  Baker1, Mr  Richard Wong She1

1National Burns Centre – Counties Manukau Health, Auckland, New Zealand


Background: When the Whakaari/White Island volcano erupted, it tested the capacity of the healthcare system and staff to respond to a large number of acute burn injuries. Current research investigating the impact of a mass casualty event on doctors’ psycho-social well-being typically focused on post-traumatic stress disorder. Studies that investigated secondary trauma and burnout were limited, particularly in an Aotearoa context. There was also limited research examining doctors’ perspectives on other factors such as triage, local management, transfer of patients between units, and perception of local resources.

Aim & Objectives: The aim of the study was to assess of the psychosocial impacts of a mass casualty on registered doctors in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The main objectives were to investigate whether social, workload, and structural factors impacted burn out and/or secondary trauma symptoms in registered doctors. Another objective was to assess doctors’ perception of the patient care of Whakaari/White island patients.

Methods: Aotearoa/New Zealand doctors from the national and regional burn units, emergency, intensive care, and plastics were invited to participate in the study. 67 doctors completed a short, anonymous, likert scale (7 point) questionnaire which examined several factors specific to the Whakaari/White Island Volcanic Eruption: work satisfaction; support factors; structural factors; workload characteristics; social support; secondary trauma; and burn out from an existing validated measure (Adams, Figley, and Boscarino, 2008; compassion fatigue scale).

Results/Conclusion: The results are currently being analysed, and may be useful for disaster planning and help design future interventions to support doctor’s wellbeing.


Nicole Schoombie is a Filipino-American originally from Washington State in the USA. She has lived in Aotearoa/New Zealand for the last 10 years. She completed her postgraduate clinical health psychology training at the University of Auckland’s Health Psychology programme. Following her training she was an intern in the diabetes and renal service at Counties Manukau Health.

Nicole is currently Aotearoa/New Zealand’s National Burns Centre (NBC) Health Psychologist and also works privately supporting people with persistent pain conditions. She is passionate about supporting patients with burn injuries by helping them cope with the hospital environment and their treatments. She also has a special interest in developing and implementing education/training for hospital staff to promote staff well-being.

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