Nursing Students Aid in Tornado Relief Effort

May 25, 2017 — Seven University of Wisconsin-Madison nursing students enrolled in a rural immersion program in northwest Wisconsin shifted their assignments to help clean up after a tornado struck May 16, destroying a mobile home park near Chetek.

The Community Health Immersion Clinical program in Rusk, Barron and Chippewa counties introduces the students to rural health care issues as they aid communities in providing health education. Typically, they work at free clinics, help organize immunization clinics, present health education programs and other related tasks.

The group, led by Pam Guthman, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Nursing, arrived on Sunday, May 14, and got to work. But on Tuesday, the tornado struck, injuring 25 and killing one man.

“We really try to be reactive to the community’s needs in what we do here,” Guthman said.

So on Saturday, May 20, the nursing students went to work in the American Red Cross’s Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) in Cameron, directing people to help, distributing supplies such as water and offering other aid, Guthman said.

In the wake of a tornado, there are many public health needs the students can help address, she said.

“This is exactly everything I’ve been teaching about,” Guthman said. “It was not planned, but we’ll take the opportunity when it arises.”

For instance, many residents were displaced when the trailer park was destroyed, and the area already had a housing shortage, so the students learned firsthand how to deal with housing issues, she said.

“Our thoughts are with the people in the communities affected by the tornado,” said Linda D. Scott, dean of the UW-Madison Nursing School. “We are fortunate they were of additional service during these challenging times while gleaning unique insights about public health challenges and rewards in rural communities.”


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