After the Storm: Caring for Staff

Uniqua Smith; Beverly Nelson; Carol Porter; Luisa "Dee" Gallardo


Nurs Econ. 2019;37(5):252-253. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Nurses play a significant role in maintaining patient care during natural disasters. It is important to understand the impact disasters also have on employees. Developing a plan to support nurses for disaster-related leave is a necessity for rapid responsiveness.


On August 17, 2017, a slow-moving tropical storm called Harvey stirred in the Gulf of Mexico. By August 24, it developed into a Category 1 hurricane and was upgraded to Category 4 by the next day. After making landfall on August 26, Houston, TX, experienced unprecedented rainfall related to Hurricane Harvey. With 1 trillion gallons of water falling within 4 days, the storm caused flooding over an unusually larger radius of the city than ever before.

Prior to the weekend landfall of Hurricane Harvey, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center initiated an emergency Level 2 warning and initiated communication to staff, patients, and families on the preparation for severe weather. This included available hospital resources and which locations and/or services would be open if a higher emergency level was declared. Once the hurricane made landfall, the institution reached Level 4: Significant Impact and all ambulatory, research, and administration operations were closed until further notice.

During a Level 4 emergency, all inpatient services remain open and the facility is in a lockdown/shelter-in-place mode. All essential personnel remain on campus to care for patients in the inpatient setting. The organization resumed normal operations on September 5, after being under emergency operations for 9 days. Essential personnel were then relieved of their duties by the oncoming relief team and they were able to assess any damage that may have occurred at their homes while being away at the hospital. Additionally, those who were part of the relief Recovery Team were able to communicate with their respective leaders of the affect the storm had on their property.