Skip to main content

Personal touch keeps families safe during hurricane season

Friday, July 19, 2019
By Bryan Roth
Valerie Jarrett, Stephanie Whitfield, Natalie Krohl

Causing catastrophic flooding and almost $5 billion in damage in North Carolina, 2016's Hurricane Matthew changed thinking around disaster preparation for Stephanie Whitfield, BSN, RN, CPN.

"We can't prevent natural disasters, but we can prepare ourselves and the families we care for," said Whitfield, a nurse clinician at Duke Children's Complex Care Service (CCS). Matthew's historic damage led to research on disaster preparedness and a decision to be more proactive for future events.

Along with Natalie Krohl, MSN, RN, PNP-AC, a nurse practitioner for CCS, and Valerie Jarrett, CCS program coordinator from the Population Health Management Office, the trio implemented interventions to protect patients who could be in need the most.  

CCS cares for almost 100 children across the state, all who have medical technology needs, including ventilators or feeding tubes. Maintaining power for machines is critical, which natural disasters can threaten.

Days before last year's Hurricane Florence, the three used MyChart to provide information to families and personally called those in moderate and high-risk areas. They encouraged the use of apps that shared federal and state-level information, identified where families could seek shelter and made sure EMS teams knew where at-risk patients were located. 

Whitfield, Krohl and Jarrett helped arrange medication refills, shared evacuation information, and connected families with MedStay, a free hotel reservation service for low rates at hotels close to Duke hospitals. Tested during last year's hurricane season, these measures are now part of CCS' disaster plan and will be used annually.

"We think about how best to care for our patients all the time, and this is another layer of support we can provide," Jarrett said. "It's the nature of our service and how we care for the whole patient."