According to Belkin, most people generally reach out to help people they know -- but some will reach out to complete strangers. And that separates a health care worker from a hero, he said.
"When it happens, you almost work on autopilot," said Belkin. "But when things calm down, then they'll start to think about what happened and that's when anxiety starts to build up."
Germain, now safely back at home, says that she does not consider herself a hero. And even now, she is trying to find a way back to Haiti, checking in with the American Red Cross and other organizations. So far, she has not been able to find a way back.
"I felt guilty that I had to [leave Haiti]," she said, adding that if she had not been traveling with her young son she would have stayed. "My country is a disaster; it needs a lot of help."
Belkin said that often the aftermath of a tragedy can be harder than the crisis itself.
"People feel guilt that they can't completely solve a situation or save everybody," he said. "There's survivor's guilt -- that you survived while the man standing next to you didn't; and the extent of a tragedy is enormous."
Although many health care workers are looking for opportunities to assist in relief efforts, Jowsey advised working with an assembled group of people or an organization that offers support and training before entering a disaster zone. That goes even for Germain, she said, who knows the area and language in Haiti.
"A lot of how a person responds depends on the amount of training and exposure they've had to prepare for disasters," said Jowsey. "If someone had pre-training and a disaster occurs, they are much more resilient in process the events than someone with no disaster work at all."
Indeed, Haiti needs nurses like Germain. The country has a severe nursing shortage -- 77 to 94 times more acute than the ongoing shortage in the U.S. Very few nurses in Haiti have had any disaster preparedness training, according the Haiti Nursing Foundation, the organization that founded the country's only nursing school.
"That is why [Germain's] work, as immediate as it was, is so important to the efforts in Haiti," said Marcia Lane, executive director of the Haiti Nursing Foundation.
According to Lane, nurses play a pivotal role in prevention, education, and treatment in less developed countries.
"I think any nurse who have found themselves in Haiti and have done what they've could as heroes," she said.
"Anytime an individual is in a situation where out of kindness they help others with some degree of risk, it's an admirable thing," said Jowsey. "I'd say admirable."
Germain said she was simply in the right place at a terrible time.
"It just happened that I was there -- that's what I would have done anywhere," Germain said. "That's why I became a nurse."