Nursing During a Hurricane

A career in Nursing can be hectic and stressful, even in the best of times. But for nurses in the areas of four Concorde campuses, especially this time of year, the work can be even more nerve wracking.

Though it’s near the end, it’s been hurricane season in the southern regions of the U.S., particularly in Florida, where Concorde has campuses in Jacksonville, Orlando, Miramar and Tampa. Just last month, Hurricane Matthew slammed most of the state, flooding homes and businesses, uprooting trees and cutting power to millions. Tragically, there also were more than 1,000 deaths attributed to the storm, most occurring in Haiti, which took a brunt of the destruction.

With countless lives hanging in the balance, health care workers, including those in Nursing, leapt into action. In actuality, the work for nurses begins days before the hurricane even strikes.

Formulating a plan, then following it

Linda Ketchum, MSN, RN, Director of Nursing at Concorde Career Institute – Tampa, worked as a nurse in obstetrics for 40 years, and much of her experience was in leadership roles. That gave her a lot of responsibility for the units she was on during any disaster or emergency.

“My hurricane plan usually started a few days before the hurricane actually hit,” she said. “My staff was split into two teams. As the hurricane approached, the entire team worked, and we discharged everyone possible from the floor.”

Ketchum said patient education was of the utmost importance during times of crisis.

“We especially focused on things like storage of pumped breast milk in the case of a power outage and stressed keeping a good supply of water stored in case of water contamination,” she said.

Eventually, Ketchum said, nurses were split into two teams – A and B. Team A, which consisted of older nurses without small children, stayed at the hospital. Team B went home to their families.

“We brought in our own food as well as two gallons of water a piece in case we needed it,” she said. “Another favorite tradition was for someone to pick up what we called the ‘hurricane cake.’ We ordered it ahead – marble cake with raspberry filling and buttercream icing.”

The nurses took an empty room and traded shifts sleeping and working until the storm passed. Then, Team B took over.

“Nurses and doctors had damage to their homes, too, and we had to schedule according to what people needed to handle on their own personal level,” Ketchum said.

A hectic, stressful time in Nursing

Ketchum said, one year, there were no fewer than four hurricanes predicted to hit the Tampa area.

“I worked at the hospital for all four of those storms,” she said. “As we were situated on the top floor, there was a lot of roof and window leakage, and it all had to be managed. Patients had to be moved to other rooms that were dry. And, as the hallways and elevators also had leaks, we had to stay where we were. No one could enter our unit or leave.”

Luckily, she said, most patients were mother-baby, were healthy and had little need for any help outside the unit.

“All in all, I enjoyed those times,” Ketchum said. “It was interesting, and the team work was phenomenal.”

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