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Motivated by Katrina - National RN Response Network Launches

Press Release Press Release, 8/26/06

Contact Information | Media Center

For Immediate Release
August 25, 2006

Press Conference with Katrina RN Volunteers Mon 8/28

OAKLAND – Vowing not to endure another year of government ineptitude in responding to human tragedy, the California Nurses Association (CNA) and its National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) will announce a national RN Response Network (RNRN), appealing to RNs nationwide to join a coordinated effort to quickly move nurses into areas like those devastated last year by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Press Conference
Date: Monday August 28
Time: 10:30 AM
Place: California Nurses Association
2000 Franklin Street
Oakland CA 94612

“We were so frustrated last year because the Red Cross and FEMA sat on their hands while we had nurses across the country ready and able to fly into the breach to help,” said Bonnie Martin, RN, a CNA/NNOC board member who volunteered in a small Louisiana hospital last fall. “We contacted hospital and medical facilities directly and were able to quickly get RNs in place.”

CNA/NNOC sent more than 300 nurses to 25 hospitals, clinics, and mobile units in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi in response to the storms. The organization provided half of the RN staff at the Earl K. Long Memorial Hospital in Baton Rouge, La., for two months after Katrina, when patient rolls doubled overnight. At other locations, many RNs worked out of tents for weeks, performing triage and critical care.

A brochure outlining the new RN Response Network is being mailed this week to over two million registered nurses across the country. It offers nurses an opportunity to put their names on the RN Response Network individually or as members of CNA/NNOC, now 70,000 members strong. The organization also is asking for contributions to ensure a funding stream for the private response network.

RNs who worked on the Gulf Coast relief effort last year were startled by conditions there. “It left a life-changing impression on me,” said Shirley Usher, RN, of San Gabriel, Calif. “The lack of healthcare there in normal conditions is an embarrassment to our nation. Many of the people there have not been cared for or have never seen a doctor.”

A few nurses stayed to take up the cause of caring for the people of New Orleans. Anne Mullé, RN, is working in a free health clinic set up in an abandoned convenience store by a group called Common Ground in Algiers, a crime-ridden community south of New Orleans. “We were already treating people for depression and suicidal thoughts, but with the coming anniversary of Katrina, the mental health issues are spiking,” Mullé said. “It’s been a year since the hurricane and flooding, but rebuilding is not happening here.”

RNRN is designed to provide support and coordination for volunteer nurses when disaster strikes, allowing RNs to focus on providing patient care. RNRN takes care of everything else, even raising funds to cover airfare, safe lodging, and meals. RNRN also works directly with federal and state agencies to resolve issues of medical credentials and licenses for out-of-state nurse volunteers.

“I tried to volunteer with at least half a dozen relief agencies, without success,” Detroit RN Diane Dengate recalled. “It was a matter of days after contacting CNA/NNOC that I arrived in my assigned hospital in Baton Rouge. Ten minutes after I arrived, I had a nursing license in Louisiana, changed into scrubs, and went to work.”

The California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee is the fastest- growing professional RN organization in the nation representing over 70,000 direct-care registered nurses in 170 facilities. RNRN is a program of the CNA/NNOC.

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