In the wake of Superstorm Sandys destruction in October, the more than 135 nurses who attended the North Shore-LIJ Institute for Nursings May 30 conference at Crest Hollow Country Club, Woodbury, N.Y., benefited from the experience of regional and national leaders on the topic of disaster preparedness and management.
“The major lesson learned from an education perspective is to be prepared,” said Donna A. Tanzi, RN, BC, MPS, NE-BC, director, nursing education and professional development, NSLIJ-Lenox Hill Hospital, Manhattan, who was part of a panel discussion on lessons learned during Sandy. “Regulatory requirements must still take precedence and be kept in the forefront in the name of patient safety. On-boarding over 799 nurses from NYU Langone had its challenges, but we stayed focused on covering all critical information so that they could practice here at LHH as safe, sound RN staff.”
Other panel participants included Mary Mahoney, RN, MSN, director of emergency planning and preparedness, North Shore-LIJ; Elvira Werner, RN, MSN, supervisor, Home Care Network; Carleigh Gustafson, RN, BSN, vice president of the emergency service line, North Shore-LIJ; Yelena Glaz, RN, staff nurse, Home Care Network; and Bela Gershgorin, MSW, social worker, Home Care Network.
Speaking about the role of Red Cross nurses during and after disasters, Susan B. Hassmiller, RN, PhD, FAAN, senior advisor for nursing, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said the organization launched relief operations during Sandy in 11 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to help people who were affected by the disaster. Besides food, water and clothing, Hassmiller said Red Cross nurses helped people find temporary shelter, locate affordable housing, furnish apartments and replace durable equipment and medications.
A volunteer for the organization since college, Hassmiller has been involved in Red Cross disaster relief efforts in the U.S. and abroad, including tornadoes in the Midwest, Hurricane Andrew, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.
“The stories behind the actual disasters and how nurses help people during those incredibly difficult times are amazing,” Hassmiller said.
With heartfelt emotion and accompanying pictures of the hospital and staff during and after Sandy, Manhattans Bellevue Hospital nurses Moftia M. Aujero, RN, MA, CNO and deputy executive director; Alma Pamandanan, RN, assistant director of nursing; and Mary Heyward, RN, associate director, recounted their experiences and how they handled unexpected obstacles. Nurses counted IV drips when the power was down; staff formed a bucket brigade to deliver oil for power; and everyone worked together to evacuate patients down multiple flights of steps.
“We learned to be flexible, that patient safety transcends any job description,” said Pamandanan, who added that being collaborative and methodical in the process was crucial.
Presenting the staffing and deployment challenges during the days after the storm, Heyward said 4,500 staff members were reassigned within one month of the facilitys forced closure, with 1,700 nursing staff redeployed within two weeks.
“It was a challenging time for us as well as the host facilities, and it certainly made all of us stronger, reinforcing the importance of being ready at all times,” she said.
James S. Gordon, MD, founder and director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, Washington, D.C., offered therapeutic mind-body approaches for healing from trauma and research to support the centers mind-body model.
Janice Petrella Lynch, RN, MSN, is nurse editor/nurse executive.