Thursday, April 19

UCLA sends second nurse to Philippines for typhoon relief effort

A second nurse from the UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica departed for the Philippines on Wednesday to provide medical relief to victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

Elena Dahl is among 12 registered nurses who will be deployed from the UCLA Medical Center in rotations to provide maternity aid to people affected by the typhoon through the National Nurses United’s Registered Nurse Response Network.

Dahl, a Pilipino American, departed Wednesday with five other nurses from medical centers across the country.

“It’s a calling to help (my) area of origin,” she said.

The deployment lasts two weeks, during which the team will rotate camps, going to areas with high demand for need.

Much time will be dedicated to serving in rural areas, Dahl said.

Some of the work Dahl and other nurses will be doing includes administering vaccinations and ensuring that mothers and newborns have adequate nutrition. Rather than addressing emergency conditions, the nurses plan to address the now more prevalent chronic conditions, said Dahl.

Dahl said being accepted to the Registered Nurse Response Network’s relief effort in the Philippines was unexpected.

“When I received the phone call, I was surprised,” she said. “When I think about disaster relief, I usually think about emergent help. I wasn’t thinking much about the recovery aspect.”

Dahl said she is excited but unsure what to expect.

“I’m apprehensive. I’m concerned about the condition of the population, whether we have enough resources to help out as much as we want,” Dahl said.

She gained experience working abroad when she volunteered in Uruguay, where there was no clean water or electricity.

“As a nurse, you feel obligated to help other communities. It doesn’t matter if it’s yours,” Dahl said.

The Registered Nurse Response Network is a nonprofit disaster relief organization that officially formed in 2005 after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said Eleanor Godfrey, the Response Network’s lead coordinator. California registered nurses who wanted to take part in relief efforts began the grassroots movement that led to the organization’s formation, Godfrey said.

“The nurses were going through a lot of bureaucracy and red tape when working through other organizations,” Godfrey said. “They organized a way to get nurses where they needed to be.”

The Registered Nurse Response Network chooses how many and which nurses are deployed, based on need. On Jan. 6, UCLA deployed its first volunteer nurse, Paolo Montenegro, to the Philippines.

“We continuously evaluate the need, making sure that we’re really needed where we are,” Godfrey said.

Nearly 3,000 nurses from 19 countries offered to volunteer in response to Typhoon Haiyan, Godfrey said.

“This is truly a testament to the compassion of nurses,” Godfrey said.

The organization funds the travel expenses of the volunteer nurses in the program.

It is covering travel costs and salary expenses of deployed nurses, said Mark Speare, UCLA Health System’s senior vice president of human resources and marketing.

Funding for future trips to the Philippines is uncertain and will be assessed after relief efforts, Speare said.

Godfrey said she is pleased about UCLA’s willingness to fund volunteer nurses, who would be otherwise unable to go. Nurses often cannot volunteer because it would mean forgoing a salary during the period of deployment.

“We have the potential to make a huge difference,” Dahl said.

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