The roles, barriers and experiences of rehabilitation therapists in disaster relief: post-earthquake Haiti 2010

Disabil Rehabil. 2014;36(4):330-8. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2013.791726. Epub 2013 May 20.


Purpose: This article describes the roles and experiences of rehabilitation therapists involved in disaster relief work (DRW) in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. The results of a pilot study and phenomenological study are presented.

Method: A phenomenological study of rehabilitation providers' experiences in post-disaster relief care is presented along with preliminary pilot study results. The phenomenological study explored the experiences of therapists from a lived experience perspective through the roles they played in DRW.

Results: Participants provided disaster relief through direct patient care, adaptive equipment sourcing and allocation, education and training, community outreach and logistic or administrative duties. Barriers and challenges included: (1) emotions: ups and downs; (2) challenges: working at the edge of practice; (3) education: key to success and sustainability; (4) lessons learned: social responsibility is why we go; and (5) difficulty coming home: no one understands.

Conclusions: Therapists play a key role in disaster relief situations. Data presented should encourage organizations to include therapists from early planning to implementation of relief services. Further studies are needed to evaluate the impact of rehabilitation interventions in disaster settings.

Implications for rehabilitation: Understanding the roles and experiences of therapists in disaster relief setting is important Certain barriers to providing care in post-disaster settings exist Those participating in disaster response should be well prepared and aware of that they might be asked to do.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Disabled Persons / rehabilitation*
  • Disaster Planning
  • Earthquakes*
  • Haiti
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Professional Role*
  • Relief Work* / organization & administration
  • Social Responsibility
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy