Revisiting Katrina’s Lessons 10 Years Out, from a Nursing Perspective

By Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN editor-in-chief

Hurricane Katrina Hits New Orleans, August 29, 2005/ Wikimedia Commons

Hurricane Katrina Hits New Orleans, August 29, 2005/ Wikimedia Commons

This past week we’ve seen many media retrospectives on the devastation Hurricane Katrina visited on the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. I remember it vividly—as AJN’s news director at the time, I cut short a Labor Day vacation and flew to Mississippi on September 10 to report firsthand on how relief efforts were progressing.

I visited the emergency shelter staged at the Meridian Naval Air Station and then drove as far as I could south from Meridian toward the Gulf of Mexico. I got as far as Hattiesburg, Mississippi, before I had to turn around because there were no open gas stations and my gas tank was at half-empty. The devastation along the highway was remarkable; trees were completely flattened and debris of all sorts was scattered about as if a giant trash can had been overturned. And this was still about 70 miles inland from the Gulf.

Over the following months and then years, AJN published a number of articles and reports on health-related issues that arose from Hurricane Katrina (see the list below). We highlighted the heroics of many nurses who found ways to deliver care with few resources, discussed ethical considerations involved in some truly life-and-death decisions, monitored progress in the years following the storm, and reported on changes in disaster preparation that followed the storm. As with the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina spurred self-assessment by many groups, with politicians and spokespersons avowing that there would be changes so that such disastrous consequences would never happen again. And then, of course, there was Superstorm Sandy in 2012 . . .

Selected Coverage of Hurricane Katrina (these articles will be free until September 10)

Nurses Rising to the Occasion

“New Orleans Evacuees in Mississippi”
After Katrina, nurses help to convert a coliseum into an all-purpose clinic.

“Her Niche in Nephrology Nursing”
A dialysis nurse recognized for her efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

Clinical issues and Preparedness

“Infection Control and Hurricane Katrina”
Lessons for nursing in the aftermath of the disaster.

“The Impact of Event Scale–Revised”
An easy-to-administer questionnaire to measure a patient’s distress in response to trauma; especially useful with older patients who may be reluctant to admit to experiencing such symptoms.

“Reality Check: How Prepared Are We for Disasters?”

Ethics

“Making the Decision to Report to Work in a Disaster”
Nurses may have conflicting obligations; the author gives practical tips for handling such decisions in a crisis.

“The Ethical Dilemma: Questions to Consider When Deciding to Show Up for Work in A Disaster”
A nurse ethicist looks at the ethical decision making process and how a nurse can apply ethical reasoning in making such potentially wrenching decisions.

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Editor-in-chief, AJN

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