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September 2, 2008

Hurricane Gustav evacuees praise ULM nursing students, faculty

The spirit of Florence Nightingale is alive and well at ULM’s Fant-Ewing Coliseum Special Needs Shelter. Hurricane Gustav evacuee Doris Celestine, of Lake Charles, praised ULM School of Nursing faculty and student volunteers, busily circulating among an estimated total of 300 patients and almost 80 other caregivers.

“My heart goes out to them – there are several volunteers we just love. I don’t know who had the plan, but I tip my hat to them,” Celestine said.

Hurricane evacuee veteran George Andrews of Lake Charles agreed, noting that the ULM Nursing volunteers never stopped moving from the moment they arrived, anxious to see to the comfort of Fant-Ewing’s guests. “And the volunteers coming in now – I haven’t seen this much activity since the hurricane started.”

Blaise Sims, fourth-level ULM Nursing student from Monroe, appreciates the seriousness of the evacuees’ situation. “This is ground zero – you hear reports about hurricane evacuations, but this is where they come to. It’s reality – you come in and see people who really need help.”

ULM’s School of Nursing faculty, staff and students have been caring for Louisiana’s evacuees since Sunday, working around the clock at the Special Needs Shelter, which is managed by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and the Louisiana Department of Social Services.

Third-level Nursing student Crystal Hammett of Monroe didn’t hesitate when the call for volunteers went out. “The people are very appreciative, and taking in everything happening here is very touching. It also makes you very glad for what you have.”

Nursing assistant professor Wendy Bailes came to her ULM teaching position with 15 years of pediatric and medical-surgical nursing experience. She expressed her pride in those students lending valuable help to the evacuees. “They have stepped up to the plate again. They are providing privacy and taking care of the changes that need to be done, providing assistance where it is needed.”

Reflecting on her more than 45 years of nursing experience, ULM Nursing assistant professor Jane Burson said that the Nursing faculty and staff are performing their duties “extremely well” at the shelter. “I think it’s very organized. The students ask for help when they need it, and the patients are very appreciative. They’re sharing their stories, anxious about their homes.”

Connie Lewis, Nursing assistant professor, added, “As a volunteer at the Special Needs Shelter, I came into contact with many evacuees (and their caregivers) that required special attention. While I was there to offer professional help as a nurse, I found what was most needed was a little time, a listening ear, and a tissue to wipe the tears.”

The School of Nursing also loaned more than 20 beds from the school’s lab, said Dr. Florencetta Gibson, director of School of Nursing.

“Our faculty have extraordinary clinical experience to take care of special needs. Our faculty have been caring for people who are less than one week post-operative, oncology patients, dialysis patients, respiratory patients, and those with other acute care needs. We are also serving those with major emotional needs. This allows our faculty to share their extraordinary nursing skills with people who are in need.”

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