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More Than 1,500 Nurses Sign Up in 24 Hours to Be the First Team Sent to the Philippines

The Registered Nurses Response Network shows it knows how to help after all-too-frequent disasters.
 
 
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As search and rescue efforts continue in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, the need for long-term, continuous care is essential. That’s why the Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN) has organized a team of RNs to travel to the Philippines, which will be the first team of nurses to do so.

On Wednesday, in 24 hours after putting out a call to its members, more than 1,500 RNs from all 50 states and 12 countries stepped up to volunteer. On Thursday, RNRN sent its advance team to the Philippines to meet with the health care workers and disaster relief groups already on the ground. RNRN also works with grassroots and community groups to figure out where they can best deploy their ongoing bases as to not be a burden to the already destroyed infrastructure.

“That’s the only way — the grassroots and the community,” said Bonnie Castillo, director of RNRN. “Where you run into the bureaucracy is really in the more traditional channels people go to. We as a union are able to get through the process more efficiently by working with the grassroots groups.”

As the largest union of registered nurses in the country, the RNRN’s ability to act together allows for quickly helping disaster-stricken areas on a large scale.

“It is very frustrating to be watching the TV as an individual nurse and not have the ability, on an individual level, to navigate all of the obstacles to getting to the spot where you can actually do what you do best, which is nursing, and be able to provide that direct care,” Castillo said. “So, collectively, we’ve been able to do that because we have every division working on this.”

RNRN, a project of National Nurses United, works to send nurses to disaster-stricken areas. Formed in 2004, in the aftermath of the South Asia tsunami, the group has since sent hundreds of nurse volunteers to assist after Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, and Hurricane Sandy.

“We know it’s not about ‘What if a disaster happens?’” Castillo said. “We know it’s a result of global warming and climate change that we’re all subject and vulnerable to disasters. And obviously, in certain areas where there’s a lack of infrastructure even pre-disaster in terms of public health services, the populations there are more vulnerable.”

Castillo said that this relief effort takes a lot of resources and money, and the RNRN is in need of continual support.

“We do know that this is an immense need and we’re going to need the support of all of our community. So we really encourage people to go on to the website, to sign up to donate,” Castillo said. “One of the things that we do that distinguishes us is that while the nurses are donating their time, we pay for their expenses to get them there and do all of this navigation so that they don’t have to worry about all of that. So we definitely need the continued support."

To donate, you can visit their website here

Alyssa Figueroa is an associate editor at AlterNet.