In the wake of the Jan. 12 catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, the worldwide reaction was shock, quickly followed by a motivation of many to help. At Florida hospitals, the desire to help also was motivated by the fact that many nurses and healthcare professionals have Haitian roots and family still living on the island or work alongside colleagues who do. The motivation quickly turned to action as nurses and other healthcare professionals geared up and shipped out.
When I heard about the earthquake in Haiti, I was shocked. I couldnt believe it, said Jannett Myrie, RN, BSN, Florida Hospital in Orlando. I have co-workers who are originally from there.Ruins such as these are widespread in the quake area.
Florida hospitals quickly began receiving victims from the earthquake including Tampa General Hospital, Jackson Memorial Hospital and St. Marys Medical Center in West Palm Beach. As patients were flown stateside, nurses flew to the island to help.
Florida Hospital employees loaded up 10,000 pounds of medical supplies and personal items that were flown to Haiti Jan. 21 including 30,000 gloves, 1,000 gowns and 2,000 bars of soap. The hospital also worked closely with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency and a 70-bed healthcare facility and school just outside of Port-au-Prince. The facility has cared for 30,000 victims since the earthquake.
Myrie departed on Feb. 1 and was scheduled to return a week later. Every single person is affected by this disaster, Myrie said. I keep thinking about the children and the mothers. Its very numbing. But my mindset was simply to be prepared and help where I can.
When she returns stateside, Myrie will still be able to help from a distance, as her church continues to collect supplies to send to Haiti.
Myrie was joined on the Florida Hospital team by Melissa Lovemore, RN, ADN, a relatively new nurse, having just graduated from Florida Hospital College in August 2009. Lovemore says her experience as a nurse prepared her to work long hours in Haiti and for the high expectations to help many in just a few days. A classmate of mine already went and her experience was tough, Lovemore says. Its going to be hard, but I dont focus on that. Ill do anything to help.
Once in Haiti, nurses work from sunup until sundown and then some. They also face unique challenges. Randall Browning, RN, BSN, who owns three rehabilitation clinics in the Miami/Broward area, spent a week in Haiti after the earthquake and describes the obstacle of trying to find supplies. There were plenty of supplies pallets and pallets of supplies, Browning said. The problem is trying to find, say, syringes among all of these boxes. It could take 20 minutes.
Another issue was the language barrier. We had help translating Creole, but the translators were extremely busy.
But as busy and overwhelmed as the staff was, Browning said many felt refreshed at being unencumbered by Medicare guidelines, charting, and other operational distractions. Instead, the situation called for complete concentration on treating patients. Browning also was impressed by the Haitian people.
The Haitians are tough as mules, he said. Even with major injuries, very few people flagged me down; they would just wait patiently. They were just so appreciative. Incredible.
Back home in Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist made a move to help alleviate the pressure on hospitals who were sending teams. On Jan. 25, Crist signed an executive order that allows out-of-state nurses to be licensed to work in Florida for the next 90 days allowing nurses from outside Florida to fill in for colleagues who want to go to Haiti, according to a Miami Herald report.
Many hospitals are teaming with community organizations and churches to collect food and clothing. Facilites such as Orlando Health and Good Samaritan Medical Center (West Palm Beach) also were quick to reach out to employees of Haitian origin with family members that might be directly affected. Employee Assistance Program counselors were made available to support team members and their families.
In the end, Lovemore says, The desire to want to help supercedes the worry of going and what might be there waiting.