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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Sight, Sound & Smell

Published June 16, 2010 11:09 AM by Gail Guterl

My husband says we can't remember everything about a book or a movie or a vacation, so our minds fixate on the most vivid impression and that's what we remember. I just finished reading Nursing in the Storm: Voices from Hurricane Katrina by Denise Danna, DNS, RN, and Sandra E. Cordray, MA, MJ.

I set the book down with strong impressions of smell, sound and sight. I could almost smell the raw sewage, oil and gasoline floating in the flood waters. I could hear the sound of people climbing into trees to escape being washed away and of them begging for water or rescue from passing boats. I could see the flood waters rising, rising, rising, imagining myself a nurse standing in a second-floor room of a hospital and watching the flood waters get dangerously close to NICU or ICU windows. I could also see hoodlums racing around the Superdome in golf carts they confiscated from stadium staff, oblivious to sick people and young children all around them, who needed help, not good times.

Nursing in the Storm is an appropriate book to read this year - Aug. 28 is the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The storm devastated the Gulf Coast, especially New Orleans, because several levees broke, flooding the city. It is the September/October book for the ADVANCE Book Club for Nurses and it's definitely worth reading.

It chronicles, in narrative form, the experiences of 25 nurses in five medical centers across New Orleans. Their stories tell how nurses kept doing what they know and do best, care for patients, despite threats from refugees seeking shelter in the hospital, despite little to no sleep, hardly any water or food, and the fear their patients would die or no one would ever come to rescue staff and patients. It also provides valuable information on lessons learned from the storm. With emergency preparedness an annual exercise in every hospital, this book will provide plenty of valuable insights on how wrong things can go.

ADVANCE will present podcasted interviews with some of the nurses in the book beginning Sept. 1 here [insert link to book club page].

Some advice about this book, which can be purchased at; skip the introduction outlining the history of healthcare and hospitals in the city (the first chapter) and skip the description of the formation of each hospital at the beginning of each chapter. Cut to the chase and begin reading the nurses' narratives. You'll be glad you did.


Thanks for the review.  I'll have to put this on my "to read" list.  I must say though that not once did I ever witness any hoodlums racing around the Superdome in golf carts.  First there was no electricity.  Secondly it was too dark to do that amongst the throngs of people in the hallways, and finally I'm positive the National Guard would have immediately halted such behavior.

Paul Harris

Author, "Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina"

Paul Harris June 16, 2010 8:22 PM
Eureka Springs AR

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