Press Release

National RN Relief Group Teams Up With Navy for Medical Mission to Haiti

For Immediate Release
July 20, 2010

The first team of registered nurse volunteers from California, Michigan, and Washington State will depart for Haiti Wednesday morning with the Department of Defense’s Continuing Promise, National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest organization of registered nurses, announced today. The volunteer RN team will be treating patients in Haiti and Colombia during their month long deployment.

The group is part of a continuous series of assignments of volunteer RNs from NNU’s Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN) which included working onboard the USNS Comfort, the critical Navy relief effort that cared for the most seriously injured following the disaster, and Hopital Sacre Coeur (HSC), the  largest private hospital in northern Haiti. 

Teams of RN volunteers will be based aboard the USS Iwo Jima, a Navy amphibious ship, in one-month rotations from July to November. They will be working in makeshift clinics on the shores of Haiti, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Guyana, and Suriname.  

“I had been traveling in Haiti with another nurse and we had left the day before the earthquake,” said Brook Casipit, an RN from Seattle, Washington with previous disaster relief experience in Central America who is part of RNRN’s first Continuing Promise team. “We had just arrived in the Dominican Republic when we heard about the disaster and tried desperately to return to volunteer, but were not able to find an organization on the ground to work with. I am delighted to finally be able to volunteer my service through RNRN.”

The first team consists of NP’s and RNs with a background in women’s health, disaster relief experience,  and  many have recent experience in Haiti including:

  • Cherie Thurner, an RN from Michigan, who went with RNRN to Sacre Coeur Hospital and has been on 13 medical mission trips to Haiti over the last 13 years. She has been on two medical missions in the country following the January earthquake and worked disaster relief following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

  • Amanda Howard, an RN from the San Diego area, who spent six weeks in Haiti after the earthquake and established pre- and post-natal care in an existing clinic.

  • Jane Ernstthal, a San Francisco Bay Area women’s health nurse practitioner with clinical experience in Malawi, Kenya, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, and Haiti, where she conducted family planning trainings for local clinicians.

  • Brooke Casipit, a Seattle, Washington recovery room RN who has trained local midwives in Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Nicaragua. 

“We have learned from our experience in Hurricane Katrina that the kind of skills needed in the weeks and months following a disaster are nursing skills,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN, director of RNRN.  “The kind of care that's needed is everyday care, and things are exacerbated by the lack of medication and basic first aid.  Wounds fester and spread. Something that was preventable ends up a life-threatening situation. Nurses are the heart of a long-term recovery effort.”