1. Newland, Jamesetta A. PhD, APRN, BC, FNP, FAANP

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The full impact of Hurricane Katrina will not be known for many years. The images of the Gulf Coast have become a constant companion, disrupting routine and complacency. It is sometimes difficult to find words to describe what you are feeling. But words are meaningless without feelings and feelings are inadequate without responsive action. Responses to the call for help have been overwhelming. Some bring nothing more than the willingness to work while others bring advanced skills and expertise that are indispensable in emergency situations. Legitimate concerns for the restoration and maintenance of health and the prevention of disease for all persons in surrounding areas have created a critical need for additional healthcare professionals.

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NPs Called to Action

Nurse practitioners (NPs) have stepped up to the plate and are providing care under grueling circumstances for thousands of evacuees, refugees, and rescuers, along with other workers. It is notable that the efforts of nurses have been recognized in the media. So often, nurses are the unsung heroes. The creativity, resourcefulness, and resilience they have exhibited have given comfort, inspired hope, and provided consolation in the worst of times.


National NP organizations, such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), the American College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP), and the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) immediately joined relief efforts by posting information on their Web sites with links to key private and government agencies for the latest updates on emerging health problems and diseases. The Office of the United States Surgeon General asked AANP, which has a large membership, to help mobilize NPs that were able to volunteer. Members were able to register online via a link to the Department of Health and Human Services.


Emergency Response Awareness

After 9/11, many NPs participated in continuing education courses through nursing schools, city and state health departments, private organizations, and other agencies to increase their knowledge and skills in emergency preparedness. Although much of that information focused on terrorism and the threat of biological attack, it developed a heightened awareness of emergency response for natural disasters.


Healthcare workers in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama worked without lights or electricity, running or clean water, supplies, or adequate food or rest. The majority of victims in New Orleans were poor blacks, a population that already suffers disproportionately from diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. These medical conditions were worsened due to lack of access to prescribed medications and the effects of stress, dehydration, fatigue, and exposure. Other health problems included skin, respiratory, and gastrointestinal infections, and heat-related illnesses. Proactive measures were instituted against the threat of West Nile virus from mosquitoes, poisonous snake bites, and outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses such as hepatitis A and influenza. An increased need for mental health services also became an issue.


The strike of Katrina was not unexpected, but the devastation was worse than expected. The response by private citizens and health professionals has been exemplary. Nurse practitioners are a vital segment of the national healthcare workforce, which was proven by their response to the call to duty. We commend all NPs who have been able to respond to the call. Others are encouraged to contribute in any way possible toward relief efforts. Transform words and feelings into action. The road to recovery is long.