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EDITOR'S NOTE: Sue Pierman is a freelance writer.
Nurses who were on duty during the storm continued to care for patients, slept on cots, delivered hot meals and put aside worries about how their own homes would fare during Harvey.
“I have never been more proud to be a nurse in my entire life,” said Catherine Giegerich, MS, BSN, RN, FACHE, vice president and CNO of Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital, a Magnet hospital in Houston. “Our nurses rallied together – that is what a Magnet hospital is all about. Our staff knows each other, have known each other for a while, and they took care of the community, each other and the physicians.” The hurricane tested Magnet nurses’ ability to think on their feet.
Becky Chalupa, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, CNOR, vice president/CNO at Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital, another Magnet hospital, said the hospital was like an island surrounded by water the first few days of the storm.
“It was difficult to get people in and out,” Chalupa said. “There were little breaks where we were able to get some folks in, but we still had freeway and road closures, and entire subdivisions were under water.”
The situation got so bad that Memorial Hermann’s medical transport service Life Flight was grounded, and a patient who had suffered a head trauma trying to rescue others needed to be transferred from San Jacinto to a nearby medical center. A Coast Guard chopper was pressed into service, and it arrived with a pilot and a frogman but with no medical personnel.
Teamwork. Leadership. Loyalty. Resiliency. Those characteristics helped prepare nurses at Magnet® hospitals in Houston during the onslaught of Hurricane Harvey.
Chalupa said the patient’s nurse at the hospital instantly volunteered to join the flight. “She never hesitated; she said, ‘I’m going,’ and bagged the patient the entire way because we couldn’t get a vent in time,” she said.
“It required lots of teamwork to get through something like this,” Chalupa said. “Physician coverage was one of the more critical issues. On Sunday, Aug. 27, we had one local physician who could get here and made rounds. We had ED physician coverage in house, anesthesia in house and two OBs in house.
“In critical areas, I would like to have had an intensivist in the ICU but, being a Magnet hospital, we had nurse practitioners in our ICU and on our floors, and they were phenomenal during this event. They worked to the top of their practice. And when thinking about inter-professionalism, our respiratory, lab, pharmacy, every department you can think of, if they weren’t giving a treatment they might have been delivering dietary trays. They all stepped into different roles.”
Leading through change
Rebecca Graystone, director of the Magnet Recognition Program®, said she believes the standards that are required to become a Magnet facility helped prepare nurses at those hospitals to handle the hurricane calmly and professionally. “The expectation is that nurse leaders lead effectively through any kind of change, including planned or unplanned,” she said. “It’s one of the standards they have to address when they provide documents as part of their application for Magnet status. Being a Magnet hospital means being prepared and able to have flexibility, autonomy and the resources to be ready.”
Now that the worst of the hurricane is over, Giegerich said she was extremely proud of the teamwork, collaboration and professionalism shown by the staff at her hospital during the height of the crisis. “Words like heroics and awe-inspiring were appropriate,” she said. “You saw individuals putting everything aside to be present for their patients. You saw that happen when an ED patient came in distraught about everything they have lost, and the staff rallies around with that holistic care Magnet nurses are known for, it changes your life.”
The heroism of nurses and emergency service professionals throughout the Houston area was well documented by the news media throughout Hurricane Harvey. Nurses at Houston Magnet hospitals believe the education, training and collaboration they received during the Magnet process helped them prepare for the disaster. Gay Nord is CEO of Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center, part of CHI St. Luke's Health, in the Texas Medical Center. Her hospital achieved Magnet status in 2001. “We have been a Magnet hospital for so long it permeates everything you do,” she said. “It helped us weather the storm during a time like this, taking great care of our patients, just as if nothing were going on outside.”
Elevating performance
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Houston Methodist nurses' camaraderie during the hurricane helped the team maintain an upbeat atmosphere for their patients.
Sidewalks outside the Texas Medical Center were flooded with water during the height of Hurricane Harvey, while inside its hospitals, nurses worked diligently to care for patients.
Jennifer Nitschmann, MSN, RN, vice president of patient care at Baylor St. Luke's, agreed.
“Because we have been a Magnet hospital so long, the loyalty and resiliency of this nursing staff has been amazing to watch,” she said. “It’s that spirit of collaboration that gets everyone through; that professionalism ingrained in the culture helps people pull together during these stressful times.”
Nitschmann said the culture of putting patients first, and an emphasis on teamwork and camaraderie, contributed to the resiliency of staff.
“Many came in who don’t have homes, but they have the pride in what they’re doing to come back to keep caring for patients,” she said.
Nurses step up during Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey provides real-life test for Magnet nurses in Houston
By Sue Pierman
Understand Magnet nursing
Interim director discusses past and future of the Magnet program.
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The Magnet difference
Experts discuss some of the unique characteristics of Magnet hospitals.
Find your Magnet hospital
A breakdown by state of all the Magnet hospitals in the U.S.
Magnet has global appeal
Hospitals in other countries are seeking Magnet recognition.
Frontline nurses take the lead
Nurses are taking on leadership roles as Magnet Champions.
Free CE: From Novice to expert
Build your expertise by adding to your skills and experience.
Magnet can be a lifesaver
Read first-hand account of how Magnet hospitals saves lives.
Seeking Magnet: Pros and cons
A look at some of the benefits and costs of pursuing Magnet status.
Improve patient care
Research suggests Magnet status can improve patient outcomes.
Hurricane Harvey - Woman standing in floodwaters
Nurses battle Hurricane Harvey
Nurses at Magnet hospitals in Houston stepped up during crisis.
Achieve accreditation
Key steps hospitals can take to help them in the Magnet process.
Lifelong learning in nursing
Magnet program places a strong emphasis on continuing education.
continuing education catalog
Continuing education catalog
A look at courses that can help nurses on the Magnet journey.
APRNs and Magnet nursing
Magnet status can elevate nurse educational standards.
When you get the Magnet call
Read testimonial from CNO of one of the newest Magnet hospitals.
What being Magnet means
Learn about the continuing journey of the nation's first Magnet hospital.
Magnet hospitals - Woman holding arm in the air
Achieve nursing excellence
Read stories of recent Magnet Nurses of the Year winners.
It takes a special leader
Find out how transformational leadership leads to satisfaction.
RNs gain support
The Magnet culture dictates fitting education into nurses' routine.
IOM goals are top of mind
Magnet supports education targets for 2020.
RNs are at the helm
Transformational leadership plays big role in Magnet process.
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