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NURSES PROVIDE LIFELINE DESPITE DESPERATE CONDITIONS; RNS KEY TO HURRICANE RELIEF EFFORTS

 NURSES PROVIDE LIFELINE DESPITE DESPERATE CONDITIONS;
 RNS KEY TO HURRICANE RELIEF EFFORTS
 WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Within hours of Hurricane Andrew's landfall in southern Florida, nurses were volunteering to staff shelters and help the ravaged areas and its citizens in any way possible.
 Mike Nilsson, RN, a public health nurse from Clearwater, Fla., his wife, Roberta, also an RN, and a team of public health nurses were some of the first to volunteer after the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) issued a call for volunteers early Monday, Aug. 24, the day the storm hit.
 The group set out for Dade County, more than 270 miles from Clearwater, to participate in the relief effort.
 "Nurses were saving lives, no doubt about it," Nilsson said. "I guess it's that certain something that nurses have -- the need to do something to be of help, to get things done."
 When Nilsson and the other nurses arrived in Dade County, fire fighters escorted them to Richmond Heights Middle School, a shelter in a hard-hit area of south Dade County.
 What the nurses found will be etched in their minds forever, said Nilsson who had dealt with many crisis situations in his previous career as a New York City fire fighter. He said none of his fire fighting experiences could compare to the devastation he found in Florida.
 "Before we even got inside, we knew we were in for trouble," he said. "There was no power, no sanitation, no water, no telephone, no communication with the outside world."
 More than 500 people, including 80 nursing home patients, remained in the shelter Tuesday morning when Nilsson and his team of nurses began their work.
 "We found (the nursing home patients) in their bedclothes, in their wheelchairs, incontinent," Nilsson said. "These were medically dependent, chronic care patients who had to lay in their own waste. Some were insulin-dependent and went into diabetic shock. It was a crisis situation."
 Nilsson said the volunteers set up a nursing station with the few supplies they had. Volunteer paramedics from South Carolina supplied them with rubber gloves. An old bed and a table from the school served as a make-shift intensive care area.
 One of the nurses found supplies, adult diapers, cotton, alcohol and other items at a nearby clinic that had been ravaged by the storm as well.
 Nilsson maintains that it was the "resourcefulness, the flexibility, the creativity and the skills of the nurses that pulled the whole effort together."
 According to Paula Massey, MN, RN, executive director of the Florida Nurses Association (FNA), nurses went out in the community where "the people were walking around shell-shocked." Massey emphasized that nurses were there to provide support, to deal with the post-traumatic stress syndrome, as well as the health issues. "Nurses were needed to assess the health care status of those they found and direct them to other resources if necessary."
 Faculty from the University of Miami School of Nursing and other nurses are providing health care services out of a van that has been set up in one of the hardest hit neighborhoods in Dade County. Nurses have been seeing close to 2,000 patients per day and a call for nurse midwives and others has been issued.
 "Nurses have always played a vital role in responding to natural disasters, epidemics and military conflicts," said American Nurses Association President Virginia Trotter Betts, JD, RN, MSN. "Today's registered nurse is well prepared to care for the wide range of problems that individuals and communities experience after a disaster such as Hurricane Andrew.
 "Nurses also play a key role in attending to other crises such as the resurgence of sexually transmitted diseases, measles and tuberculosis and the growing number of families who go without basic health care services such as pre-natal care and immunizations."
 Increased use of registered nurses to provide primary care in convenient community settings is a key principle of Nursing's Agenda for Health Care Reform, a plan that has been endorsed by more than 65 organizations representing more than one million nurses. Nursing's Agenda for Health Care Reform calls for comprehensive reform and addresses access to care, cost containment and quality.
 Presidential nominee Bill Clinton supports this principle as well as many other basic principles of Nursing's Agenda for Health Care Reform. Citing his commitment to health care reform, the American Nurses Association endorsed Clinton on Aug. 15.
 Commenting on nurses' response to the hurricane relief effort, Clinton said, "I recognize the value of nurses bringing health care services into the community. Under my health care plan this will become routine and commonplace, rather than an extraordinary measure."
 -0- 9/10/92
 /CONTACT: Joan Meehan of the American Nurses Association, 202-554-4444, ext. 244, or Karen Rogers of the Florida Nurses Association, 305-525-4000/ CO: American Nurses Association; Florida Nurses Association ST: Florida IN: HEA SU:


KD -- DC032 -- 8226 09/10/92 17:08 EDT
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Date:Sep 10, 1992
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