Massachusetts Nurses Fly to Houston to Help

The Massachusetts healthcare community stepped up to the plate this past week, quickly responding to a call for help from a hospital outside of Houston, Texas that had been affected by flooding from the devastating Hurricane Harvey.

On Wednesday, 27 Massachusetts nurses and one cardiac catheterization laboratory technician boarded a chartered plane at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts to fly to Ellington Airport in Houston. Once there they were deployed at Bay Area Regional Medical Center (BARMC) – the Webster, Texas hospital that on August 29 had contacted MHA President & CEO Lynn Nicholas seeking help.
(Photo at left: Pre-flight pep talk. On the bus before the flight, MHA President & CEO Lynn Nicholas (standing, right) addresses the volunteers, joined by MHA Sr. Director of Clinical Affairs Lorraine Schoen, R.N. (left) and ONL CEO Amanda Oberlies, R.N. (center).)

The Texas disaster response protocol allowed individual care facilities to seek help on their own, which is why BARMC CEO Stephen Jones, Jr., called his former colleague Nicholas as well as one in New Jersey. Within hours after MHA put out a call to its membership, more than 100 caregivers from across Massachusetts signed up to help. New Jersey deployed its nurses first and over the Labor Day weekend MHA staff and BARMC, along with Organization of Nurse Leaders of MA, RI, NH & CT, plus MassPort, coordinated the details of what types of caregivers were needed, when they would deploy, and how they would travel to and from Texas. BARMC provided the 30-seat propeller plane that left on Wednesday morning and will return on September 12.

“I’m incredibly proud of our generous and dedicated nurses and techs for stepping up to help when and where it’s needed most,” Nicholas said. “Not only will they provide clinical care, but many plan to volunteer with clean-up in the area. This effort is one of the most heart-warming things I’ve been engaged with during my entire career.”

Among the volunteer nurses traveling to Texas were two sisters RNs and a couple that recently became engaged.

 The caregivers came from the following MHA member hospitals: Boston Medical Center; Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Fairview Hospital; Lawrence General Hospital; Lowell General Hospital; Mercy Medical Center; Newton-Wellesley Hospital;  Southcoast Health Hospitals; Tufts Medical Center; UMass Memorial Medical Center; and Winchester Hospital.

As the effort in Houston was underway, Hurricane Irma slammed into Puerto Rico, other Caribbean islands, and was on a direct path to Florida. At their peak, Irma’s winds were clocked at 185 m.p.h.