Most of us watched with sadness and horror as Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area, the wrath from which resulted in massive flooding with at least 39 dead and untold thousand injured. It was “all hands on deck” in most cases for most nurses. Miranda Kelly was one. A nurse practitioner of critical care units at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands, she spoke of her experience.
How did you get started in nursing or decide to become a nurse?
I was working in the business office in the emergency room of a hospital and I was intrigued with the nurses and doctors. I found it very exciting and interesting watching them work caring for patients. This was the spark that ignited my passion for nursing.
What is it to you that is so great about being a nurse?
I love being able to make a difference in someone’s life when they may be experiencing the worst time of their life.
Regarding Hurricane Harvey, can you explain a bit about how the day unfolded?
It had been raining a couple of days, but on Saturday it started raining harder and it continued to rain throughout the night. I got called into work early Sunday morning. When I went to leave, I found that my road was flooded and I could not get out. A co-worker’s husband came and got me in his truck. I stayed at the hospital until Tuesday evening when the roads cleared to my house and the hospital had called in the relief team.
What kind of self-help measures can you take during recovery, or are you just so busy working that you don’t have time for yourself?
I think this is time you let friends, family, and even strangers help you in any way they can. Taking it one day at a time is really all you can do.
What about family? Did you or any of your colleagues have family affected? How did you/they deal with it?
I have had extended family affected and there are numerous staff at our hospital whose homes and cars have been flooded. The staff at the hospital have banded together to help our hospital family that have been affected by helping to clean up houses, cooking meals, and raising money for them.
What about rebuilding your home/life while community is in turmoil? How do you go about that?
I was very fortunate and did not have flooding in my home, but what I have seen from the community is nothing short of amazing. People from all over the state and beyond have banded together to help not only their friends and family, but total strangers. The outpouring of support and care that I have seen every day has been amazing. Texans are tough and we will take it one day at a time and rebuild our communities, homes, and lives.
What training did you find particularly prepared you for this experience?
My experience as a nurse and leader to respond to a crisis was crucial in this instance. In my role as a NP I was available to the staff for patient care issues and to support them. Everyone at the hospital banded together to make sure that patients and staff alike were taken care of. There was leadership from many keeping everyone updated, collaboration among the team, and comradery among the staff. I even put my selfie taking skills to work that brought smiles to tired faces.
What kind of unexpected needs for patients and their families did you find if any?
Unfortunately, we had some patients whose homes were flooded while they were in the hospital. This required extra assistance to facilitate their discharge from the hospital. We also had patients that were ready to be discharged, but couldn’t get to their homes because of the road flooding.
How did your unit deal with supply shortages, transportation and staffing needs, etc.?
Since we had notice of the hurricane we had ordered extra supplies ahead of time in anticipation that we would not be getting supplies for a few days after the hurricane. With this preparation, we did not experience any major supply shortages during the hurricane. Utilizing the disaster teams worked well and we had staffing during and after the hurricane. The biggest issue after it finally quit raining was finding a clear road to the hospital because of all the road flooding.
In what ways do you feel you came through the experience stronger? How did it affect you?
I’m not sure it’s stronger, but I am grateful to see how everyone worked together as a team and how our units came together in a time of need. We have a great team so I was not surprised, but it makes me really proud to say that I am part of some wonderful teams and the hospital as a whole.
What about as a unit?
I’m fortunate to work with the critical care teams which include the critical care units and the intermediate care unit. All the units did a wonderful job showing compassion, collaborating, and having a little fun while keeping the units running smoothly while a terrible hurricane was devastating our area. I feel like the caring attitude of staff and teamwork is even stronger after the hurricane.
Is there something in particular that fuels your passion for nursing and compassion towards others?
One of my passions related to nursing is mentoring of staff. I enjoy teaching and love to see the look on their face when they “get it” and I know that they learned something new.
Do you have anything from the experience in particular that stands out for you?
I guess it would be how smoothly everything ran in the hospital and the caring people that I work with. In regards to the hurricane, watching the overwhelming amount of support from all over and people helping and caring for total strangers has brought tears to my eyes more than once.
What would you share with other units that might perhaps better prepare them to deal with disaster events such as this?
I would say preparation is key. We fortunately had time to prepare for the storm and that preparation helped us to keep the hospital running smoothly throughout and after the hurricane. Of course, having a disaster plan in place is vital to being prepared.