The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kari Jones, 510-433-2759 or Bonnie Castillo, 510-273-2218

RN Response Network Deploys Nurse Volunteers to Houston to Help Provide Medical Assistance Post-Hurricane Harvey

RNs to Provide Care as Well as Plan For Ongoing Nurse Deployments


National Nurses United (NNU)'s Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN), a national network of volunteer nurses, will deploy its first delegation of RN volunteers to Houston, beginning Thursday, August 31, to work with locals on providing medical assistance in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, NNU announced today.

"As nurses, we felt immediately and strongly compelled to assist local communities in their process of healing and recovery from Hurricane Harvey," said RN Response Network director Bonnie Castillo, RN. "This is just the beginning of our assistance, and RNRN will be working with local officials to send ongoing teams of volunteer nurses to areas impacted by the hurricane, in the months to come, given that the initial aftermath of a super storm like this is followed by continuing health challenges.

"RNRN has deployed volunteer nurses post-hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Typhoon Haiyan, as well as in other disaster relief and humanitarian assistance missions around the world, and we know from experience that long past the time when news cameras disappear, disaster-stricken communities still need care. Our nurses will be there to help."

Registered nurse volunteers on the initial RNRN Hurricane Harvey relief deployment will be providing medical assistance at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, where around 9,000 people are seeking shelter from the storm. Over 1,000 registered nurses from 49 states and Puerto Rico have also answered RNRN's call for Hurricane Harvey volunteers--and await possible future assignments.

"Being a nurse, you've sworn to care for people," said RNRN volunteer Robert Enriquez, of El Paso Texas, a Cardio Vascular Intensive Care Unit RN, as well as an Emergency Medical Technician, paramedic and firefighter. "If people [impacted by the hurricane] need help, I feel like it's my duty to help as much as I can."

For Enriquez, the impact has even touched his own family, as a cousin in Houston "lost everything; everything is underwater."

"One of the things I wanted to do with my license, when I got it about eight years ago, was to do volunteer work and to use my license to help people who really needed help," said RN Erik Hoagland, an Intensive Care Unit nurse from Oakland, California, who will be deploying to Houston with RNRN. "I'm really proud to be part of National Nurses United. It's great that RNRN exists and that there's an interest in taking care of the larger community."

National Nurses United represents around 800 Texas registered nurses in communities hit by the storm. To that end, RNRN volunteers will also have the very personal experience of knowing that while they are deploying to provide assistance on the ground, they will be standing in solidarity with their local colleagues, who have been impacted both at work and at home.

"We nurses all just pulled together and got the job done," said NNU member Valerie Gray, RN, a labor and delivery nurse from Houston who spent 97 hours at her hospital, in the aftermath of Harvey, working 12 hours then sleeping 12 hours. "I'm very proud of our team."

"My mother lives in Port Aransas, and ... everything is destroyed there. My mother's house and my sister's business are trashed," said NNU member Kim Smith, RN, of Corpus Christie, who says local nurses are simply pulling together--despite struggles in their personal lives-- to "do the most good for the most people you can; you've just got to go to work and keep going."

Both local and RNRN volunteer nurses say they are concerned not just about immediate negative health impacts, as people face lack of food, shelter, water, power and basic sanitation, and lack of access to necessary medications--but also ongoing concerns ahead, with the potential for infectious diseases and injuries and illnesses in the cleanup effort.

"We understand that local people and first responders are still focused on the search and rescue process, and our nurses are going to be working in a way that will not add to the burden," said Castillo. "We also understand that recovering will take time, and we want to assure local communities that our nurses will be here to help, today, tomorrow and in the months to come."

"As the hurricane raged through Houston, my first thought was signing up to volunteer. I feel I have an ethical obligation to help any way I can in times of need," said volunteer RN Amy Bowen, a flight nurse from Kansas City, Missouri, who will be adding the Houston deployment to her six previous deployments with RNRN.

"As a critical care registered nurse with prior disaster experience I understand the dire situation the people of Texas are facing, and I am compelled to offer any assistance that I can. With the support of National Nurses United, I know nurse volunteers make an impact."

National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history.

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