Nurses Show the Nation How to Respond to Natural Disasters Like Earthquakes and Hurricanes

Nursing Tool Box

Whether it’s earthquakes in Mexico City or hurricanes on our own shores, nurses continue to show up and make all the difference when and how they can. Nurses know what to do in a crisis. It’s part of their training and their skillset. However, as we all know too well, it’s easy for anyone to turn a blind eye to tragedy.

Nurses Step Up

Time and time again throughout the past month, we’ve seen countless examples of nurses stepping up, even when they weren’t asked. National Nurses United issued a call through the Registered Nurse Response Network to send RNs to Texas after Hurricane Harvey. They organization, founded in 2004 after the tragic tsunami in Asia, coordinates teams of volunteer nurses and deploys them throughout the world in response to natural disasters.

“I hope to provide some healing to residents of Houston. That’s what we do, as nurses; we go where we’re needed, and we help.”
RN Dotty Nygard, of Tracy, California

Eight nursing students took 10 days out of their demanding student schedules to travel to the area to provide their support. One of those students, Ashley Johnson, referred a patient to a doctor during her visit, a referral which turned out to have been lifesaving. Another eight courageous nurses from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) travelled to Houston together to help NICU babies.

“This experience is not only eye opening but life changing for me. It truly brings into perspective the importance of holistic nursing and the impact that even one volunteer can make. I am a better nurse because of it.”
Ashley Johnson, Nursing Student, East Central University

Jeff Anderson is a nurse from Akron, OH who has helped survivors of dozens of hurricanes. When Hurricane Irma decimated the Florida Keys he and his team showed up when other agencies had evacuated, helping many people on the ground who may have otherwise not received any care for their injuries and illnesses.

“The sincere compassion and the warmth and tenderness in their eyes, that conveys a million words.”
Jeff Anderson, RN, Akron, OH

Nurses Answer the Call After Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

A staggering 20 nurses from the Bay Area here in California, along with 30 volunteer nurses from New Jersey (also through the RNRN), all boarded chartered flights on October 3 and headed to San Juan to help the herculean recovery effort after Hurricane Maria devastated much of the island nation of Puerto Rico.

Working as a volunteer team leader for the National Disaster Medical System, RN Gina Smith has been distributing water and providing immediate medical attention on the ground for a variety of patients, including people with chronic health problems. She uses one of three different cell phones, including a satellite phone, to coordinate with her team on the ground.

“I’ve responded to many disasters and many hurricanes — Charley, Frances, Katrina, Rita — and I have yet to see a community with more resilient people as I have seen here. I cannot state that strongly enough.”
Gina Smith, RN

Smith’s team included a number of people she works with at UMass Medical center. In addition to providing medical services, they also built out medical systems and created homeless shelters in one of the hospitals to provide housing for people who didn’t have anywhere to go after they were treated.

In times of crisis, nowhere is the human spirit more evident than how nurses consistently cooperate with other first responders. Smith’s group may return to the Puerto Rico in November if they are still needed. As the progress remains slow, we can assume that they will be. Fortunately, the world, and the nation, can remain confident that whenever called upon, nurses selflessly and passionately respond.

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