NEW YORK NURSE: January 2013
Nurses responded heroically to Hurricane Sandy – in hospitals big and small, across NYC, Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey, and beyond. Here are some of their stories.
It was the most heroic act of the whole storm: with no power and no working elevators, Bellevue nurses safely evacuated more than 740 patients.
At first, the hospital switched to backup generators. Then those failed, too.
Nurses had to manually pump air into tiny babies from the NICU.
Nurses and other caregivers carried hundreds of patients down many, many flights of stairs.
Every patient made it out safely.
“Under that kind of pressure, everyone really came together as a team,” said Anne Bové, a Bellevue nurse and the president of the HHC Executive Council.
Coney Island Hospital began their evacuation before the storm hit. Then the lights went out.
“On the night of the hurricane, the lights went out, and we had to work with flashlights. We had to transfer patients from the labor room to the post-partum unit, which has light,” said Doreen Horton, RN, who helped evacuate patients safely from the hospital.
Nurses at other HHC hospitals – like Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn – are helping to fill the gap left by the evacuations.
EDs were slammed. And many still are. “A lot of patients were transferred to us from Coney Island and Bellevue,” said Kings County ED nurse John Pearson, RN. “Things started to get a lot more crowded than they already were – which was already bad.”
“Staten Island University Hospital, where I work, is more than half a mile from the beach.
“When the storm hit, the water in the parking lot was up to people’s waists. The Fire Department had to help bring patients into the emergency room.
“Our hospital never had to evacuate. I spent most of the first week after the storm in my hospital, sleeping in shifts to care for patients.
“When I finally got outside, I was shocked at the devastation. Some neighborhoods were just wiped away.
“A week after the storm, you had people living out of cars. There were newly homeless people, just wandering the streets. But there was no one there helping to coordinate the recovery.
“That’s when nurses from our union stepped in to help – in a big way.”
“I came in the Sunday before the storm and left on Tuesday morning.
“We were short staffed and had a lot of acute patients. We really banded together to support each other – that’s what nurses do.” — Alberta Alexander, RN
“I came before the storm, and I finally left the Friday after. We were sleeping seven or eight to a room a time.
“We got some very seriously ill patients from the other hospitals. Everyone’s care was met. These nurses did a great job.” — Linda Brady, RN
“When we started getting patients from the evacuated hospitals, it was intense. Suddenly we had twelve admissions with just four nurses.
“Normally there are 17 beds on our unit. By the time I left on Friday, we had 25 patients.
“The response from the nurses was off the chart. We all pulled together for our patients.” — Lorraine Mitchell, RN
Nurses are taking their concerns about patient care to the public.
With only two hospitals operating below 58th St. in Manhattan, the EDs at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals are slammed with patients.
Management is floating nurses to units with only one day of orientation – instead of the required three months!
SLR nurses say that with the influx of patients transferred from Bellevue and NYU Langone, and SLR’s decision to force detox, psychiatric, and pediatric nurses to adult medical/surgical floors with minimal training, administrators are putting patients at risk.
And nurses have taken their message public, passing out thousands of leaflets in front of the hospital.
They want SLR management to stop using the Sandy disaster as an excuse to violate provisions of their union contract – and to hurt patient care.