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31 October 2005
21 Nursing Faculty, Students
Help Katrina Evacuees

Nursing faculty and students pose for a photo at the JoEllen Smith Convalescent Center in New Orleans.

By Leslie Gober
JSU News Bureau

Twenty-one Jacksonville State University nursing faculty and students volunteered to assist nursing home patients and other survivors of Hurricane Katrina during a trip Sept. 29 through Oct. 2.

Fifteen nursing students and six faculty members from the College of Nursing and Health Sciences volunteered 20 hours of nursing care during relief efforts that focused on aiding nursing home patients and others.

In Citronelle, Miss., the students assisted Red Cross personnel caring for evacuees at the United Methodist Church. At the JoEllen Smith Convalescent Nursing Home, in the Orleans Parish vicinity of New Orleans, the volunteers assisted 139 nursing home patients who were sheltered in a cramped dining room. The patients were described by volunteers as "being in a fragile state."

Faculty members said students were encouraged to do the volunteer service for humanitarian reasons as well as to gain the experience of working a national disaster.

Miss Susan Lynn Hillhouse, R.N., instructor of community health, who directed the trip, said the nursing students took their textbooks and studied during the trip to Mississippi and New Orleans. She said, "The students made sacrifices of working 20 hours and coming home to take tests and write their required papers."

Miss Hillhouse, of Centre, was one of the six faculty members who assisted during the trip.

Asked how they chose sites for volunteer work, Miss Hillhouse said she identified areas of need based on contacts with area residents.

She said "We functioned as health care providers, we gave physicals, baths, counseled those who needed to talk about the devastating events that had taken place, and we fed people.

Miss Hillhouse said patients ranged in age from 30 to 100 years old. The nursing students handled all types of medical problems -- "rendering simple first aid to helping people with heart conditions."

Dr. Deborah Curry, RN, of Centre, instructor of nursing, said, "Nurses can do almost anything when they set their minds to doing that task. They rock."

Instructor Carrie Elkins, RN, of Heflin said, "I feel the trip taught the students more theoretically. It gave the students a chance to see their teachers actually serving as nurses." She said students often view their professors to be theoretical but not experienced in hands-on assistance.

The faculty nurses said the trip helped them bond with their students.

The students who participated included Van Wilson, Talladega; Martha Velandia, Rainbow City; Angela Turner, DeArmanville; Caren Tumlin, Southside; Kandi Simpson, Snead; Karen Penland, Weaver; Laura Grimes, Jacksonville; Neirissa Drummond, Jacksonville; Rebecca Denny, Saks; Amber Crocker, Weaver; Jessica Palmer, Gadsden; Ashley Crow, Ft. Payne; Nicholas Carnell, Higdon; Nathan Bowden, Sylvan Springs; April Brown, Weaver.

The six faculty members included Ms. Kristi Beam, Saks; Ms. Carrie Elkins, Heflin; Miss Lynn Hillhouse, Centre; Dr. Deborah Curry, Centre; Ms. Becky Bertalan, Hokes Bluff; Dr. Phyllis Waits, Lineville.

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