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Katrina at 10: Loyola University New Orleans nursing professors write seminal new book on disaster response

Loyola press release - August 6, 2015

‘Voices of Angels: Disaster Lessons from Katrina Nurses’ draws on first-person accounts to provide lessons on emergency response during disasters

A new book, written by the late founding director of the Loyola University New Orleans Health Care System Management Program and an alumnus of Loyola’s School of Nursing, is designed to help emergency responders perform in extreme crisis conditions and disasters.

"Voices of Angels: Disaster Lessons from Katrina Nurses," released this month by Pelican Publishing, draws on storytelling and heroic first-person accounts from nurses who worked to save lives in hospitals and health care centers along the Gulf Coast during the days following Hurricane Katrina. Spotlighted are stories from nurses at the VA Medical Center, University Hospital, Pendleton Memorial Hospital, Charity Hospital, Tulane Medical Center, Ochsner Medical Center, Lambeth House in New Orleans, and the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge.

“A new nurse will read this book and become inspired, because what they see is people who are considered by society weak and fragile ― that is, nurses ― rise to heroic levels,” said psychiatric nurse and co-author John Batty, RN, MSN, HCSM. “They tell me ― nurses ― ‘I would never leave. I would stay until the bitter end.’ And that’s inspirational. Who does that? Nobody. Maybe priests, ministers. But very few people care for their fellow man like that, and for many nurses, that’s just part of the job.”

Batty, who received a master’s degree in nursing from Loyola’s School of Nursing and now serves as an instructor in Loyola’s nursing program, co-wrote "Voices of Angels: Disaster Lessons from Katrina Nurses" with the late Dr. Barbara Gail Tumulty, who helped to establish Loyola University’s first online program, the Loyola Health Care System Management program.

The primer devotes chapters to stories and lessons from nurses representing the “nurse angels who worked in every Louisiana and Gulf Coast hospital and healthcare center in Katrina’s wrath,” Batty said.

Upon returning to class at Loyola in 2006, Tumulty recognized symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, in some of her students who had worked in hospitals during the storm and days afterward, Batty said. At the same time, he was working at Charity Hospital, interviewing nurses.

“My background is in psychiatric nursing. I have worked in a prison, several in fact, and I could see that everyone was suffering,” Batty said.

The professor and her former student spent six years gathering interviews, research and writing. The result is a book that includes photographs, first-person accounts, information boxes and end-of-chapter lesson reminders that will prove useful to all emergency responders who read the book, from healthcare workers to police and fire personnel, the publisher said, calling the book a “first-of-its-kind.”

It includes Joint Commission recommendations for hospital disasters, thoughts on preparing nurses for disaster response, a chapter devoted to immediate and long-term effects of the Katrina disaster on nurses and the city of New Orleans, and an epilogue, written 10 years after Katrina.

Tumulty, who was named professor emeritus of nursing when she retired from Loyola in 2014, died in February, one month after she signed with Pelican Publishing, Batty said. She left the world not only a book, but an amazing legacy.

The top-ranked recently reaccredited online master’s degree nursing program that Tumulty founded at Loyola, with approximately $2 million in federal and state grants, is designed to help nurses who want to become nursing managers, administrators and healthcare executives to advance their careers.

Now in its 11th year, the Health Care System Management Program in Loyola’s School of Nursing, has trained more than 1,150 nurses from around the world to be managers and leaders in their field.

Click here to learn more about the book.

Click here to learn more about Loyola’s Master of Science of Nursing degree program.