Nurses help with relief effort

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For seven nurses from Yampa Valley Medical Center, it wasn't enough to watch the rescue efforts happening in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast.

They wanted to be there to help. On Thursday morning, after organizing a trip in a matter of hours Wednesday, the group did just that.

The nurses are headed to Baton Rouge, La., with plans to remain in the area through Labor Day weekend. They are not sure where they will be sent to help.

"Everyone here is really excited and just so inspired by this effort," said Christine McKelvie, public relations dir--ector for YVMC.

"This is what nursing is all about. ... It's a zeal, a passion to help others, and these nurses are just epitomizing that nature to reach out and help."

The idea was sparked by Natalie Booker, RN and director of Inpatient Services. She began looking into the possibility of helping with relief efforts Wednesday afternoon.

Within hours, the idea became a reality, McKelvie said.

Booker talked with Karl Gills, chief executive officer of YVMC, who suggested that Booker contact the Louisiana Hospital Association. He also said YVMC would pay for transportation and other expenses.

Next, Booker spoke with officials at the Louisiana Governor's Office and others. Soon, everything had come together.

Seven nurses, including Book--er, volunteered to go. They have wide ranges of experience, and two are recent graduates hired by the hospital.

The nurses likely will relieve nurses who have been working around the clock, filling in for nurses who haven't been able to get to work and helping with the high patient load, McKelvie said.

They do not know where they will be stationed after they arrive in Baton Rouge.

The nurses brought their Colorado nursing licenses and photo IDs and will be allowed to work in Louisiana even though states typically require their own licenses, McKelvie said.

Erin Cook, who is in the reservation department with Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., helped the nurses book Thursday flights from Hayden to Houston. She also arranged for a seven-person van to be available when they arrived.

The nurses took supplies from the hospital's pharmacy, including antibiotics and medicine for diarrhea, pain and other problems victims are likely to have.

In addition to financial assistance from YVMC, a hospital doctor donated money for unanticipated expenses.

Hospital employees are pit--ching in to cover shifts while the nurses are gone. Co-workers also are donating paid time-off hours so the nurses will not have to use their vacation time.

"They're gung-ho," McKelvie said. "It kind of brought people to tears yesterday. ... They're just willing to bring their skills and their spirit to help."

Ski Corp. spokesman Mike Lane said his company is willing to try to get free airplane tickets or the best deals possible for other emergency personnel who plan to volunteer in hurricane relief efforts.

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