School of Nursing Faculty Member Virginia Holter, DNP, APRN, takes her duties as a nurse seriously, so much so she believes it is her duty to help wherever she can. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Holter provided medical attention Dallas mega shelter opened for those displaced by the flooding.
“The mega shelter medical clinic was opened August 29,” Holter said. “We saw people of all ages, kids, young adults and the elderly for illness or medication refills. I was raised in a manner that if I have something to contribute, then I need to give back.”
Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in the Texas Gulf Coast August 25 and was the longest-lasting hurricane to hit Texas. With sustained wind gusts at 110 miles-per-hour, it dropped more than 40 inches of rain from Port Mansfield, Texas to north of Houston, reaching as far inland as Austin and San Antonio. It later caused flash flooding and tornadoes in Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee.
“I’ve been fortunate to have so much support from the School of Nursing faculty to allow me to help these people,” Holter said. “My family is in Houston, but they are more fortunate than others. Some people lost everything. As a nurse, I can be the one focal point for the patient and their family. It is a huge responsibility. We take vital signs and administer care, but it is my duty to provide support with that. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to listen, but also make psychiatric referrals so people can pick up the pieces of their lives.”
Holter spent four shifts in the mega-shelter, volunteering her services until evacuees were cleared to go home. Holter has no shortage of volunteer experience. With 32 years in nursing experience, she has volunteered in Haiti, west of Port-au-Prince, providing support for the people, teaching first aid, CPR and giving health screenings.
“Within disaster relief or global health care settings, the need is more immediate,” Holter said. “Working with underserved populations, we must meet the basics of health care. Patients are often so busy working they only have time for their basic needs to be met. It is difficult to establish sustained care, but we, as medical professionals, can give them the tools for healthier lives once we leave. It is easier to develop relationships with people in the clinic. I can encourage them, promote their lifestyle and provide ongoing support.”
Before Holter was a nurse, she worked in the high-stakes position as an EMT, and also spent 10 years of her nursing career in the Intensive Care Unit. She since has focused on primary care as a family nurse practitioner, where she serves in a volunteer clinic in her spare time.
“Nurses trained in triage know how to evaluate, reassure and counsel patients in a way that provides compassion,” Holter said. “I don’t need the adrenaline rush anymore, however. I love teaching and mentoring and seeing the joy in nursing. Nurses have such broad knowledge that we can help anywhere. Anyone who has gone through a nursing program has the skill, knowledge and compassion to help anyone, anywhere. I believe that compassion is what leads us to become nurses.”