Texas Hospitals Use Social Networks to Seek Volunteer Nurses for Hurricane Relief Efforts

Christina Mattina

Through the power of social media, hospitals in Texas are asking nurses from across the country to lend a hand in assisting the overwhelmed staff who have been working overtime to care for survivors of Hurricane Harvey.
 
One post spread via the social media channels of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) asks on behalf of Texas health systems for nurses registered to work in the neonatal intensive care unit “to help provide relief to those who have been working countless hours since Hurricane Harvey made landfall last Friday.”
 
AWHONN indicates that local hospitals are already mobilizing nurses into Dallas and Austin and intend to bring them into the hardest hit areas of Houston and Corpus Christi as the flood waters recede. The post has been shared over 10,300 times on Facebook alone.
 
Licensure is a common obstacle for nurses looking to work out of state, so the post specifies that the process will be easier for nurses in one of 25 states in a licensure compact. However, it emphasizes that nurses in other states have the option of receiving emergency licensure if they want to help.
 
Although HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, has declared a public health emergency in Texas and Louisiana, this declaration does not waive provider licensing requirements, which are determined by states. According to an announcement from the Texas Board of Nursing, a disaster licensing procedure has been put in place to respond to the hurricane. Nurses from states not in the compact must complete an application and e-mail or fax it to the Board in order to receive a temporary license.
 
Overburdened health systems in Texas are leveraging their connections to spread word to potential volunteers. For instance, Stephen Jones, Jr, is CEO of the Bay Area Regional Medical Center in Webster, Texas, and is also the son of Stephen Jones, the former president and CEO and current chief academic officer of RWJ Barnabas, New Jersey’s largest healthcare system.
 
A bulletin posted by the New Jersey State Nurses Association (NJSNA) implores nurses to fly down to Texas for 1 or 2 weeks to fill in at the Bay Area Regional Medical Center, which is seeking 90 volunteer nurses (30 each for the intensive care unit, emergency department, and medical/surgical unit). The 150-bed hospital on the Texas coast wants extra hands on deck “to give their staff some relief,” according to the post on the NJSNA’s website as well as its Facebook and Twitter accounts.
 
The hospital will “be happy if [volunteers] can stay the week, ecstatic if they can stay two weeks,” the post states. It also specifies that nurses only need to bring their regular license and will be covered by malpractice insurance. Expenses and travel will be covered, but there is no salary. A private jet leaves from New Jersey on Thursday morning to carry any willing nurses to the disaster area.
 
Early Wednesday afternoon, the NJSNA announced that due to "the overwhelming response to the call for nurses in Texas," there is currently no additional need for nurses to volunteer. Its tweet ended with an observation that "Nurses are awesome!"

Thank you for the overwhelming response to the call for nurses in Texas. Currently, there is no additional need. Nurses are awesome!

— NJ State Nurses (@NJNurses) August 30, 2017

Nurses who cannot leave for Texas can still help in other ways. An article posted on allnurses.com, a nursing community forum, encourages concerned nurses to donate to disaster relief charities like the Red Cross or the Salvation Army Disaster Relief.
 
“Tag your nursing buddies to get the word out,” the post urges readers. “Let’s do what we do best and make an amazing difference in these Texans’ lives.”
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