The evacuees from Hurricane Katrina were joined just a few weeks later by hundreds more who fled Houston to avoid Hurricane Rita. On the northward journey, many stopped in Waco, but many others continued up I-35 to Dallas, where students and faculty from Baylor's Louise Herrington School of Nursing responded.
In the days immediately following the natural disasters, Judy Wright Lott, dean of the nursing school, reported: "We are incorporating one day of volunteer efforts as part of our community clinical course. Anna Hilton, one of our community clinical instructors, took eight students to Reunion Arena on Sept. 4. They worked for 10 hours straight, providing triage, taking health histories, bandaging and treating minor injuries and much more."
It was estimated that more than 13,000 evacuees arrived in Dallas on the weekend the Dallas Convention Center opened to receive them, according to the center's director of operations. The medical treatment area at the center saw more than 1,000 people in the first 24 hours.
"Baylor University nursing students, under the supervision of Baylor faculty, were there on a consistent basis from the day the Dallas Convention Center opened until the day it closed," says Hilton, MSN, RN. "We helped set up and we helped break down, and in between our students did amazing things to provide care and comfort for people in one of the greatest homeland crises our nation has ever known."
Lori Spies, a lecturer who serves as the school's missions coordinator, says students, faculty and staff have taken the initiative in finding ways to help. They have collected cash donations for the North Texas Food Bank, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. "Three students, who had just finished work at 11 p.m., went to the Dallas Convention Center and stayed until 4 a.m., giving exhausted hospital staff a desperately needed chance to rest," she says.
Other faculty members took students and volunteered independently or went to Houston to work with evacuees, Spies says.
The School's Agape/Baylor Community Care center extended its services to alleviate the burden on the Dallas County health care system. The Baylor Community Clinic is a ministry and service-learning program at the nursing school.
Charles Kemp, FNP-C, director of the clinic, says the students are taking complete responsibility for running the volunteer clinic an extra day each week, on Wednesdays, through December. "In one week, Baylor students and volunteers treated 163 sick people. The students have done a magnificent job of handling a very confusing flow of patients and doctors who volunteer - always with a commitment to turn no person away."
Ailey Runyon, RN, NP, from the Baylor Rural Health Clinic in Itasca, 45 miles south of Fort Worth, also was part of the nursing school's response. She took two of the school's family nurse practitioner students on a medical mission trip to help those affected by Katrina. "They had class on Wednesday and they each had to work on Saturday, but they volunteered on this mission Thursday and Friday," she says. "That is truly dedication, not only to achieving excellence in their school work, but in reaching out as Christians to victims of tragedy."