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Perinatal Nursing in Uncertain Times: The Katrina Effect

Giarratano, Gloria PhD, APRN, CNS; Orlando, Susan DNS, APRN, NNP-BC, CNS; Savage, Jane PhD, RN, LCCE, FACCE

MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: July-August 2008 - Volume 33 - Issue 4 - p 249–257
doi: 10.1097/01.NMC.0000326080.26870.85
Original Article

Purpose To make explicit the perinatal nurses' shared meanings of their lived experience while providing nursing care in the New Orleans area during the disaster of Hurricane Katrina.

Study Design Interpretative phenomenology.

Methods Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with 16 perinatal nurses 9 to 18 months after they worked in obstetrical and newborn hospital settings in the Greater New Orleans area during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Van Manen's process of reflective thematic analysis-guided data analysis was used.

Results Themes and subthemes included (1) duty to care (back to the basics, empathy, and advocacy in action); (2) conflicts in duty; (3) uncertain times: chaos after the storm (evacuation: routes through uncertainty, hopelessness, abandonment, and/or fear); (4) strength to endure; (5) grief: loss of relationships, identity, and place; (6) anger; and (7) feeling right again.

Clinical Implications Nurses who work during disasters must live through the uncertainty of the situation and be prepared to adapt to the needs that arise in patient care situations and self-preservation. Excellent basic nursing skills, intuitive problem solving, and a sense of staff unity are primary resources. Nurses and other caregivers need ongoing supportive interventions to rebound from the experience and cope with symptoms associated with trauma exposure.

You've read about the theory of disaster preparation, and the real world events, and now this stunning study of what MCH nurses actually experienced working through the hurricane is research no nurse should miss.

Gloria Giarratano is a Professor of Nursing, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, School of Nursing, New Orleans. She can be reached via e-mail at ggiarr@lsuhsc.edu

Susan Orlando is an Assistant Professor of Nursing, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, School of Nursing, New Orleans

Jane Savage is an Associate Professor of Nursing, Our Lady of the Lake College, School of Nursing, New Orleans, LA.

Acknowledgment This study was funded by a grant from the New Orleans District Nurses Association (NODNA).

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.