Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Susan Speraw

Committee Members

John Orme, Joanne Hall, Kenneth Phillips


The purpose of this mixed methods study was twofold. The first was to use Hobfoll’s (1989) Conservation of Resources theory to predict psychological stress based on responders’ perceptions of resource adequacy. The second was to use qualitative interviewing to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the disaster/humanitarian responder experience.

The study is significant given the expanding role of nurses within disaster/humanitarian response organizations. Furthermore, psychological stress results in increased turnover of human resources in these organizations. This turnover is detrimental to humanitarian systems that already lack adequate coverage and sufficiency because funding and human/material resources grow at a slower pace than the rate of need.

Pragmatism provided the philosophical roots for this study. Participants included physicians, nurses, physician assistants, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and mental health workers (N = 109). Eight surveys were completed using the Qualtrics® system. These included a demographic form and scales for moral congruence, disaster self-efficacy, resilience, perceived social support, readiness to deploy, and psychological distress. Multiple regression and bivariate analysis were used to test hypotheses.

The primary quantitative research question asked Do participants who perceive adequacy of object resources (food, water, shelter, safety, and essential supplies to respond), personal characteristics (moral congruence, disaster self-efficacy, resilience, social support, and readiness), conditions (adequate sleep, safety, and security), and energy resources (education, disaster-specific training, and income) experience less psychological stress than those who do not?

Participants who completed the survey were given an opportunity to participate in an interview where they were asked to share in their own words what it was about their disaster experience that was most meaningful to them.

From a quantitative perspective, COR theory was only partially supported by findings indicating that moral congruence, disaster self-efficacy, readiness to deploy, and educational level are significant predictors of symptoms of psychological distress.

Qualitative assessment identified several response components that are not addressed by the theory. These items are mentorship, leadership, media influence, and the political environment’s impact on disaster/humanitarian response efforts.

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