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Evacuation of a Maternal-Newborn Area During Hurricane Katrina

Bernard, Marirose MN, APRN, CNA-BC; Mathews, Pamela R. BSN, RNC

MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: July-August 2008 - Volume 33 - Issue 4 - p 213–223
doi: 10.1097/01.NMC.0000326075.03999.11
Original Article

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall and inflicted devastation across the Gulf Coast. The catastrophic hurricane and flooding from failed levees in New Orleans made this event the most destructive natural and man-made disaster to occur in the United States' history (White House, 2006). Such a massive disaster challenged survival for everyone in its path, including patients and healthcare professionals. This hurricane challenged the usual standards of care and disaster management strategies well beyond what we had ever prepared for or experienced. The city of New Orleans was under 8 to 12 feet of water. Memorial Medical Center, located in one of the lowest sections of the city, quickly became isolated from everyone and everything. The challenges that nurses faced during the 6 days after the disaster were arduous and multifaceted. Nurses had no choice but to be creative and flexible and improvise by using what limited resources were available. Nurses were not able to provide care in the typical patient care environment because patients were relocated to multiple areas of the hospital, the ER ramp, and the parking garage to await evacuation. The temperature soared to 110°F, and evacuation efforts were chaotic and disorganized. This article describes the heroic efforts of a strong and cohesive nursing team in caring for our patients and providing for the evacuation of 16 critically ill newborns from the Level 3 regional neonatal intensive care unit and 5 well newborns and their mothers.

These nurses lived through it. Read about their heroic efforts for mothers and children during one of the worst disasters ever in the United States. Would you be prepared?

Marirose Bernard is currently an Instructor, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing, New Orleans, LA. She was formerly the Director of Nursing for Women's & Infants' Services at Memorial Medical Center. She can be reached via e-mail at

Pamela R. Mathews is currently a Student Nurse Recruiter, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing, New Orleans, LA. She was formerly the NICU Nurse Manager at Memorial Medical Center.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.