Now that the waters are receding in greater Houston and southeast Texas you might think the worse is over for the schools of nursing, but I thought I would share my experience at Univ of TX Medical Branch after Hurricane Ike and give you some sense of what is happening and what they might need.
There are two priorities for the schools now: the first is to account for all the students. Many students and their families will have been seriously affected by the storm with destroyed or severally damaged homes, and limited access to electricity or transportation. They are NOT worrying about school; they are worried about their kids, food, clothing and shelter. Their family and support systems are struggling with loss of income and the expenses needed to survive and build back. The emergency agencies will help them out, consider donating to the Greater Houston United Way, Greater Houston Food Bank (it supports all the food banks in SE Texas), or the Greater Houston Community Fund. FEMA will be less helpful, highly bureaucratic and slow. In the meantime, the faculty and staff working desperately to account for all their students and help them with basic needs as much as they can.
The second priority will be the education mission. The faculty and staff, many of whom also lost or have severally damaged homes, will be thinking about how to keep their programs going to assure that students are able to progress in a timely manner. They will be under pressure on this from the students who had no problems, but also because of their personal commitment to fulfilling their core education mission. If they haven’t prior to this, they are discovering the advantage of online and asynchronous teaching. And spending a lot of time working with agencies to find clinical sites for the students. This will be a huge challenge. With Ike, Univ of Texas Medical Branch was able to find clinic placement for health professions students throughout the state. But we were just one school, imagine the challenge with a dozen. So faculty will be struggling with personal problems while trying to keep moving forward under very difficult conditions.
I hear a lot of “what can we do”? Beyond thoughts and prayers and donations to community agencies, anything you or your organization can do to support the schools teaching mission will be invaluable. In addition, I know at least the Univ of Texas Medical Branch has started a student emergency fund; I am sure all schools affected are doing this. Please donate to one of these Student Emergency Funds!
I was blessed when I lived through Hurricane Ike, I had minimal personal impact and spent my recovery time in our nurse -led clinic (a shout out to my old friends at St. Vincent’s!) and in any other way I could. And I watched my colleagues perform heroic work to account for students, help students with terrible personal challenges, and to assure that everyone progressed in their nursing education even in the face of an unimaginable natural disaster. We were able to finish the semester on time! I would say the main lesson was: don’t let the disaster be used as an excuse to slow down or stop the core mission of academic nursing, to prepare future nurses. Please help them be successful!