On Our Radar Spring 2013

Denise Connolly-Hoyt, MS, RN and Catherine Manley-Cullen, MS, RN, are two LSN alumnae who work at NYU-Langone Medical Center Emergency Department.  They helped evacuate patients when Hurricane Sandy hit.

Although the media focused on the evacuation of babies from the NICU, a total of about 300 patients of all ages and mobility levels - including ICU patients- were evacuated.  Manley-Cullen (pictured below) notes that hospital staff carried patients down the stairs in medical sleds.  She says that changes were made as necessary as hospital staff organized the evacuation.  “Originally, the staff was going up and down the same stairwell, but that didn’t work as well as having one dedicated ‘up’ stairwell and another dedicated ‘down’ stairwell so the change was quickly made.”

She said, “We set up a mini ICU on the floor at the base of the stairs to await the ambulances. At first nurses worked by flashlights until lighting could be set up. The nurses were phenomenal.”

For Connolly-Hoyt, it was an eye-opening experience.  “It was my first real life disaster experience,” she said.  However, the steps she took felt intuitive to her after training in drills over the course of her career as well as when she was a student at Lienhard.

Connolly-Hoyt helped organize patients and said it was nice to have patient contact again after years of working in administration.  She was able to help a lung cancer patient who was in a lot of pain and her panic-stricken husband by taking the patient’s hand and breathing with her. “It’s really about the patients, and this served as a good reminder for me,” she said.

She notes that the Emergency Department was flooded, and seeing the aftermath has been difficult for many on staff -- the facility was badly damaged with water and sand, and is currently under construction.  The ED staff has been displaced from their workplace, adding another level of stress to their lives.  Many have been deployed to other hospitals to deal with increased patient volume. 

Staff members have also been volunteering in the hardest hit places with the American Medical Corps, Red Cross, Occupy Sandy, and The Visiting Nurse Service of New York.  They are taking on a variety of tasks from shoveling debris to setting up medical clinics to partnering with Visiting Nurse Service and going door to door to check on folks in their homes.  Many elderly and/or homebound people who had no heat, electricity, elevators, hot water, and other necessities relied on these visits while services returned to normal.  

Manley-Cullen says, “This is a whole different aspect of nursing -- community health nursing, which is very different from what we are used to in the hospital setting.”

Indeed, Lienhard professors used the hurricane as a “teachable moment” once classes were back to normal to discuss the importance of public health nursing. 

According to Professor Sandra B. Lewenson, EdD, RN, FAAN, “What we did in our class (NURS 624 Leadership in Advanced Nursing) was to reflect on the experiences of the students and to consider the nursing leadership required during times of crisis -- both in the present and historically.  In many instances, that included looking at public health nursing (e.g. Lillian Wald and Lavinia Lloyd Dock).”

Professor Lin Drury, PhD, RN said, “I took the first post-Sandy class to discuss what the students had experienced in their own families and to get them thinking about what their public health clients were going through.  This was in preparation for their first post-Sandy day in their public health clinical sites.  As it turned out, Pace announced a late start for that day and my students were already on their way to Henry Street.  When the delay was announced, every single one continued on to Henry Street even though it took several of them more than two hours and multiple modes of transportation to get there.  Henry Street clients were still in the dark and we got busy working with staff doing outreach to elderly people who were homebound in NYCHA buildings that lacked light, heat, and water. The students chose to focus their evidence-based practice (EBP) project on disaster preparedness for vulnerable populations and presented their work to HSS staff as well as their classmates in a poster session.”