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    Mass Shootings: Nurses’ Role in Saving Lives

    I woke up the morning of 10/2/2017 in shock and heartbroken – once again. It’s a feeling that I’ve felt before; after Aurora, Newtown, Charleston, San Bernardino, and Orlando, just to name a few. However, I see the Las Vegas shooting differently, now through the lens of an injury prevention nurse.  After having the opportunity of being an injury prevention coordinator at a major level 1 trauma center, I now appreciate the importance of prevention and the role nurses have in saving lives. My experience in this role has empowered me to become a powerful advocate. 

    Our Potential Impact

    With over 3 million nurses in the United States, this is our time to stand up and take action to stop these preventable tragedies from happening.  Sometimes we think our job is just working 12-hours shifts, when we clock-in until we clock-out. However, as the most trusted profession, we can use our knowledge, influence, and experience to make change both on AND off the clock. We have the potential to lead initiatives to prevent mass shootings by advocating for sensible gun safety policies.

    Role of Nurses

    With my past role in injury prevention, my eyes to the role nurses have beyond the bedside were opened. As an injury prevention coordinator, my job was to develop programs to prevent deaths from trauma, specifically related to falls, motor vehicle crashes, etc. While I wasn’t directly caring for patients, my main goal was to prevent the traumatic events from occurring in the first place. In nursing, should we be focused on prevention as much as we focus on caring for patients after they are sick or injured? Think about it.

    At the bedside, do we ensure the older adult who fell is being discharged to a home that is safe? Do we provide them with evidence-based falls prevention classes they can attend in their community? Or do we just check the box in the Electronic Health Record to meet the standard discharge requirements?

    In the community, do we advocate for laws and policies that prevent injuries and deaths related to distracted driving? Or do we just care for the injured victims when they arrive at our hospital in critical condition?

    Mass Shootings

    I feel that this is our time, as nurses, to advocate for proper preparedness and prevention measures for the sake of our communities. We can’t just hope that another incident like this won’t happen in the future. We must ACT!  You have to ask yourself, what is my role, as a nurse, to prevent injuries and deaths from mass shootings?  The time is now for nurses to work together to prevent these tragedies.  We can’t just wait in the trauma bay to care for patients after a mass shooting. We need to proactively work to prevent mass shooting fatalities and injuries from occurring.

    So, What Can Nurses Do?

    Prevention:

    Advocate 

    It’s time to know your legislators. You can begin by searching for your Senators and Representatives. I’ve placed a link below. You can call, email, and visit your representatives as a constituent (voter) and share with them your concerns as a nurse.

    Participate in professional nursing associations. The ANA (American Nurses Association) has released a statement in support of sensible gun safety laws and encourages participation from nurses during ANA’s Lobby Day in D.C.

    Advocate changing cultural norms around violence. Norms can be protective against violence and they can also encourage violence. Nurses can be active in setting healthy norms in their families and communities.

    Educate

    Volunteer in your local community to educate the public on gun safety. There are many organizations that offer free gun locks along with gun safety education. Search online and volunteer for an organization in your area.

    Address risk factors known to contribute to violence such as access to lethal weapons, lack of mental and physical health services, lack of educational opportunities, and social and geographical isolation.

    Preparedness:

    Make sure your hospital is prepared

    How often does your hospital do mass shooting trauma drills? Do they even do them? If so, do they use live actors? Do you and other staff participate and know the plan?

    Ask your unit manager about this and offer to participate. If your facility doesn’t practice, offer to help develop a program. Maybe you and your unit want to lead the initiative together.

    Stop The Bleed

    Stop The Bleed is an initiative by the American College of Surgeons and Hartford Consensus to educate the public on bleeding control and to make bleeding control kits readily available for public access in the event of an emergency. As nurses, we need to support this lifesaving initiative. Someone with life-threatening bleeding can die in minutes. We need to make sure the public is trained in the event of an emergency so they have the knowledge to save someone’s life until first responders arrive at the scene. Link below.

    Become a regular blood donor

    Blood donations are always needed after incidents like Las Vegas. When the need is so great, blood will be flown from other cities to the one affected. So, even if your city is miles away, it may be used. We can’t just wait for incidents like these to donate blood. If you are eligible to donate, please consider becoming a regular donor. Link below.

    Volunteer

    When mass shootings occur, healthcare providers need to be ready to act. You can sign-up to volunteer with a disaster organization like the American Red Cross.

    You can also take online courses to become certified in disaster management. Link below.

     

    Resources:

    Find your representatives

    Stop The Bleed

    Blood Donations

    ANA Press Release

    American Red Cross

    FEMA

    ANCC- Disaster Certification

    Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

    Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence

     

    This post is dedicated to the victims, their families, first responders, and healthcare workers involved in mass shootings.

    Cary Cain, MPH, BSN, RN contributed to this post.

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    Florida Nurse Travels To Texas After Hurricane Harvey

    This is a guest post by Nurse India. She graduated nursing from Florida A&M University in 2015. She currently lives in Orlando, FL and works as an ICU nurse. She volunteered two weeks of her time to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

    Below is an excerpt from her diary detailing her experience: 

    Today marks one week that I have been here in Texas to help out as a relief nurse in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. When I first made the decision to come I was super excited to help but nerves and anxiety soon followed. I individually contacted some of my family and closest friends to inform them because I knew that me leaving home to go to an area of potential danger would make my loved ones uncomfortable. My nerves also led me to make a Facebook post, not expecting the love, appreciation and support that I received. Reading everyone’s comments and well wishes helped to ease my mind and allowed me to arrive at the conclusion that I was making the right decision. Luckily, one of my good friends and fellow classmates decided to come as well so it helped that I didn’t have to do this alone.

    How did I end up here?

    This is the number one question I received. Most people simply wanted to know how I was able to come help out. The short version of this story is that I work PRN for a company that was heavily involved in getting nurses to Texas. When I received the information for the opportunity to help, I focused my mind on getting here. The paperwork process of getting here was simple because I was already credentialed and Texas quickly processed my temporary license for disaster relief. The company was very upfront about what kind of conditions we may be living in and what kind of hours we may need to work. Mentally I knew that I had never experienced 16-hour shifts or slept on a cot in my nursing career but I was up for the challenge. I boarded a flight to come to Texas less than 24 hours after contacting the company.

    The meet and greet

    From the moment I arrived in Texas my experience has been nothing short of amazing. A total of 90 nurses flew into Dallas, energetic and ready to work. With all of us rounded up in a hotel lobby at 5:45 in the morning waiting to board buses that would transport us to Houston, a few company representatives explained that we were the very first group of nurses being deployed in the aftermath of the hurricane. Some of the nurses in these facilities had been locked in the hospital since before the hurricane hit and were eagerly anticipating our arrival. It was at that moment that I truly started to grasp that I had made the decision to be a part of something so selfless and pure. All of the nurses in that room were aware of what we may be walking into and we all did it with love in our hearts and smiles on our faces. One of the things that I love about the nursing profession is the bond that we share simply from our career choice. You can place complete strangers in a room and we find a way to form connections within minutes because we share the admiration and love for the nursing profession. We posed for pictures, exchanged phone numbers and chatted about everyday nursing experiences as we traveled 4 hours from Dallas to Houston.

    “Everything is bigger and better in Texas”

    Our first stop in Houston was Conroe Medical Center and as our buses pulled into the entrance of the hospital we were greeted by a large group of nurses and hospital administration that were clapping and cheering us on. They also held up a sign with a map of the world that stated “Nurses save the world”. I don’t think there was a dry eye on the bus, as we realized just how surreal this experience was becoming. As we unloaded the bus and gathered our luggage the cheering never stopped. The line extended inside as we were high fived and hugged while we walked into the facility. That moment was by far one of the best experiences that I’ve had in my nursing career. From the first facility we were separated into smaller groups according to the various facilities that we would be working in. At our second stop which was Tomball Medical Center, we were again greeted by nursing and staff that cheered us on as we exited the bus. Tomball became our command center that day, unexpectedly. The original plan was for the buses to drop each group off at their facility but the surrounding areas of the other facilities were flooded and the company had to organize alternative transportation. This was no surprise to us as we had already been told that we may need to get into the facilities via boat or helicopter. Although Tomball was only expecting 6 nurses, they inherited about 40 of us as we waited for the next stops in our deployment to our various facilities. They went over and beyond to make sure they we were comfortable in this transition. We were all eager to get to our destinations so that we could immediately begin to help. By 5pm my group that consisted of 11 nurses was slated to deploy to Houston Northwest Medical Center but faced more issues with transportation so the company decided to house us at Tomball for the night and prepare transportation for the next morning.

    The final destination

    The next day we arrived at Houston Northwest Medical Center, our final destination. By this time we had been in Texas for 2 days and we were still being greeted with cheers and hugs as we walked into the facility. The staff at Houston Northwest went to great lengths to ensure that we were comfortable during our time here. We were informed that we would not be working 16-hour shifts but rather a usual 12-hour shift and we were given access to private rooms with bed and showers for 2  days before being transferred to a hotel because the hospital wanted us to be more comfortable. Luckily, Houston Northwest Medical Center did not sustain major damage during the hurricane but their employees were heavily affected. All of the staff played an important role in making us feel welcome. Every single day that we are here someone goes out of their way to simply say thank you for being here. The response that I have received from deciding to come here has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life and I am grateful to every single person near or far that have shown their appreciation. More than anything I want the world to know that I am no hero, the true heroes are the residents of Texas that weathered the storm and had the courage to continue on in the aftermath. The people of Texas are not sitting around dwelling on their misfortunes but instead picking up the pieces and pushing through for another day; that is what life’s all about.

    Week 2

    I’ve settled into a routine. Sleep during the day,  work a 12-hour shift at night. I’ve worked as many as 6 days in a row. Usually 6 days tires me out on a regular job but my adrenaline has kicked in here in Texas and my main focus is working to help out as much as I physically can. I’ve started to form true connections with people here, some of the other relief nurses as well as some of the staff nurses. I’ve become so comfortable I’m starting to get sad at the thought of leaving. I never expected to come here and make friends. One of the hardest things about navigating through life is interacting with amazing people that you will probably never see again.

    Hurricane headed for Florida

    What is the irony in coming to Texas as a disaster relief nurse after a major hurricane just for another major hurricane to target my state a week and a half later. I’m anxious and I’m scared. The company offered to send me home ahead of the hurricane but I came here to help and I cannot abandon the people that need me. Now I have to sit back and pray. Track this storm on social media and news outlets. I’ve made contact with my family and friends to get an idea of their preparation plans for the sake of my sanity. My dog happens to be in Orlando boarded at his doctors office, I know it’s the safest place for him but I’d never forgive myself if something happened to him while I’m away. I feel helpless. It is the morning that the hurricane is set to make landfall in Florida. My stomach is in knots and before I can make my morning phone call to my mom I cry because I now wonder if I should have went back to be with my family. The one thing that has truly touched my heart is the concern that my colleagues at Houston Northwest have shown in the wake of the hurricane headed to Florida. They all made sure to check in with me and ask for updates on my family.

    After the hurricane

    I was always taught not pray and worry but that is easier said than done. The hurricane weakened by the time it reached Florida which lessened the impact. My family and friends were all ok with the exception of losing power; no one sustained any major losses. Sometimes in life, we have to make those hard decisions and trust that it will all work out in the end. My decision to stay was a leap of faith and I feel proud of myself for working through that fear.

    Farewell Texas

    As things unravel in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Florida, Texas slowly began to find some sources of stability and my 2-week commitment has now come to an end. The state of emergency in Texas is officially over and that means I get to go home. I am humbled by the experience. I was able to interact with people from all walks of life. Natural disasters are untimely and unpredictable. There is no selection about who will be affected and there is no rule book on how to cope with the aftermath. Somehow Texas maintained their love and southern charm all while trying to reconstruct their foundation. As I board my plane, I had mixed emotions as I was excited to go home but sad that my time in Houston had come to an end. From this experience, I have learned that life will throw you into uncomfortable situations just to test your readiness for growth. Furthermore, opportunities are endless and the sky is the limit. Never be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, make those challenging decisions and watch your destiny manifest in the process. I leave Texas a better person, a stronger nurse, and more importantly an advocate for the people in this world that need a little help along the way.

    -Nurse India

    You can follow the awesome Nurse India on Instagram: @indialikethecountry

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    Tips for Storm Ride-Out Nurses

    Hurricane Harvey: How Nurses Can Help

    This is a guest post written by Nurse Becky. You can follow her on Instagram: @iwanttoquitmydayjob

    She’s been a nurse for the past 7 years and works in critical care. Nurse Becky spent 4 days at her facility in Houston, Texas during Hurricane Harvey.

    Here are her tips for those on storm ride-out teams:

    1- Bring a cooler

    Be prepared to spend multiple nights in the hospital. Pack your favorite foods and beverages! Don’t forget your fruits and veggies. The hospital may only provide snacks like graham crackers and peanut butter…

    2- Bring enough clothes for 4-5 days

    It’s better to be prepared. Bring plenty of scrubs and underwear. Many people on my team had to hand wash their clothes in the pink basins cause they didn’t expect to be at the hospital so many nights. Unlike flying, you don’t have to worry about packing less than 50lbs. So, it’s OK to over pack!

    3- Bring bedding

    I highly recommend you bring an air mattress and your favorite pillows. Bring a piece of home with you! For example, I sleep with 3 pillows so I brought them all and it made me feel more like home. And yes, if you sleep with a teddy bear, bring your teddy bear.

    4- Bring things to keep you busy

    Bring your laptop or ipad to use during breaks between shifts. It will feel like “camping” with your co-workers so bring some fun games and entertainment.

    5- Shower shoes and towel

    If you didn’t already notice, hospital showers aren’t like the Ritz-Carlton. Bring your favorite toiletries to compensate for the not so marvelous accommodations.

    6- Stay positive

    Being away from your home and family during a time of crisis is really difficult. Trust me, I know. Use this time to bond with your co-workers and reflect on your nursing journey. You will come out of this experience a better nurse.

    Below is a post by Nurse Becky after being relieved by the recovery team:

    If you’ve seen my social media in the last few days, it’s obvious that in the stress and exhaustion of the weekend, I have been able to have some laughs and provide some laughs (adrenaline can make you do some crazy things). As I woke up (in my own bed) this afternoon, I couldn’t help but think “Damn, I wish I was back at work.” No, I don’t have Stockholm syndrome, but I missed my work family, my team, my ride-or-dies. If you asked me last night how I felt about going back to work today, I would have said “too soon, I need a break from these people, these fluorescent lights, and am overdue for some ME TIME!” Disasters can bring out the best or the worst in people- for my coworkers, it brought out the best this Harvey weekend. I did not hear one complaint come out of my crews mouth regarding the conditions. We persevered and came together like nothing I have ever seen before. Special shout out to our unit secretary, Liz, who is 38 weeks pregnant, slept on a stretcher for 4 nights and never complained once. Now, I’ve never been pregnant but from what I hear, I can imagine that ain’t comfy. We were sharing everything from food to floss. Male coworkers, who I have only known in a professional manner saw me in my pjs, with my morning hair, and retainer. We were bonded in a new way that no one can ever recreate.

    People give nurses shade for only working 3 days a week (12 hr shifts), but it’s weekends like these that you realize it’s so much more. I have never been more proud to call myself a nurse. To be there to provide comic relief to my crew, and give a hug/free cup of coffee to my dying patients wife who just found out from her son that water was entering her home, was an honor. The ability to provide someone with a smile and a glimmer of hope about their loved one in this trying time is truly rewarding. To see multiple coworkers (nurses, NPs, RTs, unit secretaries) finding out about their flooded homes and continuing to do their job, like nothing was wrong was incredible. These moments make you realize what is important in life, and that not all heroes wear capes.

    Our awesome unit management adequately staffed us all weekend because of their quick decisions to call people in when they did. I know making big decisions for a hospital is not easy. Knowing that our executives and higher ups were having to make major decisions regarding disaster protocols while also dealing with their own disasters in their personal life (family members safety, home safety, pet care, child care, etc) further proves we are HUMAN. I have realized this weekend, more than ever, that we make mistakes and your damned if you do, your damned if you don’t when making critical/game time decisions. So thank you, for coming through for the “little people” of the hospital in the end and making us feel that our concerns were heard.

    Now, able watch the news for a consistent amount of time, I am also so proud to call myself a Houstonian. Seeing how this city has come together in a time of turmoil is incredible. Stories like a Walmart owner opening it’s doors in the peak time of the flooding for police personnel to gather resources for free, or seeing multiple of my friends with boats on the front lines rescuing people. Not to mention the amount of friends I have seen getting out of their dry homes and going to volunteer at the shelters. I have to give a shout out to my Dallas and Fort Worth friends, who have kick started gathering supplies from their communities and sending them down to Houston too. It is amazing what we can accomplish if we all participate and give what we can, so thank you.

    Thank you to our first responders. Doing my job from the comfort of a hospital is easy compared to what y’all are doing on the front lines. Thank you to the news anchors and meteorologists for tirelessly keeping everyone informed around the clock. Thank you to the volunteers who came to our units to help with anything from emptying trash cans to helping reposition patients. Thank you to the restaurants who donated food for the entire hospital staff through the weekend. It’s amazing what a hot meal can do to ones psyche. 

    And thank you to Houston as a city. People are saying it could take several months to even years to rebuild this place, but we will persevere. We may be broken now, but we are feisty– look out!

    Stay safe out there.
    With love,
    Nurse Becky

    For ways to help, click the link below:

    Hurricane Harvey: How Nurses Can Help

  • in , ,

    Hurricane Harvey: How Nurses Can Help

    I’m currently living in Seattle but called Houston home for the past 2 years. Many of my friends in Houston are nurses who’ve spent the past 4-5 days working in their facility until relief nurses could arrive safely. They worked tirelessly caring for patients and slept on cots and air mattresses between shifts. They are heroes and we should honor them by helping out communities impacted by this historic storm. See the links below for ways to help. 

    Assist in Texas

    Texas Disaster Volunteer Registry: For healthcare providers who want to volunteer their skills and time.

    From the Texas BON: Nurses from Compact states with current multistate compact licenses need not apply and may come to Texas to practice without application.

    Local Organizations

    Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund: Started by Houston’s Mayor, Sylvester Turner

    Houston Food Bank

    Houston Humane Society

    Texas Diaper Bank

    LGBTQ Disaster Relief Fund 

    United Way of Greater Houston

    Local Hospital Foundations

    The hospitals listed below are just a few facilities in the Texas Medical Center that were impacted by the storm. Please consider giving to their foundations.

    Harris Health System

    Memorial Hermann

    Houston Methodist

    Texas Children’s

    MD Anderson Cancer Center

    National Organizations

    American Red Cross: You can also text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10.

    AmeriCares

    Catholic Charities

    Salvation Army

    Blood Donations

    Please consider donating blood at your nearest blood center. If you are ineligible from donating, encourage an eligible person to donate in your place.

    America’s Blood Centers

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