Thursday, December 3, 2009

Nurses Rise to the Occasion in Texas

Nurses don’t wish ill of anyone, but when the worst happens, we want to be there.

At least some of us do – like the nurses who were on duty Nov. 5 at Scott & White Hospital in Temple, Texas, where 10 of the victims of the Fort Hood shootings were brought as soon as they could be transported.

I’m sure that for these nurses, the Food Hood incident will be one of those defining moments of their careers. They’ll always remember where they were or what they were doing when the call first came that victims from the huge Army post would be arriving at their ER door.

Charge nurses and unit director Jessica Richter, RN, CEN, was hosting a baby shower for a co-worker during their break when she heard the mass-casualty call.

“Adrenaline is something ED nurses don’t experience often because we do this type of work every day,” she said in an interview, “but I felt it that day. Waiting for patients was agony. We just wanted to get them in here and take care of them.”

“It was amazing to see how quickly we could move,” ER charge nurse Lindsey Stonebrook, RN, BSN, CACP-SANE, recounted in an interview. “There were many unknowns, but you had to be ready. The first helicopter that landed with a patient made it all real.”

Reading accounts of the tragedy both fascinate and scare me. And, what’s more intriguing is that, according to Scott & White nurses, fear never entered their minds; they had the situation under control. There may have been some frayed nerves when it was all over, but it sounds as if the ER nurses did just what they were supposed to do. The ER was full, according to one account, so a triage team was quickly assembled to attend to less acute patients and all staff worked to get patients to their assigned rooms and clear the trauma bays. Excellent teamwork at its highest level!

Hospital security was called in and they instituted limited access to the 500-bed hospital to give ER staff every advantage and to keep the press and lookie-loos at a safe distance.

According to other nurses, the ER received and cared for these 10 victims with a process that went smoothly from beginning to end.

“I’ve been a nurse for 9 1/2 years, and I’ve never been involved in a mass casualty,” Richter added. “This was something I worried about after 9/11 and working so close to an Army base. But one thing that sticks out in my mind is how well our team pulled together …”

What’s the toughest situation you and your co-workers have had to face?

When the going gets tough, do your co-workers pull together?

What’s the best aspect of teamwork in your workplace?

Tell us about it.

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