CandlesNatural or man-made, disasters can be frightening, chaotic, and tragic events.  In these events, nurses play a fundamental role in response and patient care. In our series, “Nursing and Disasters”, prominent voices in the field give voice to ensure that all nurses are personally and professionally prepared for a disaster.

Anniversaries are measurements of time, progress, patience. August 29 marks the eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It was natural disaster for the Mississippi Gulf Coast where some of the coastal areas had tidal surges in excess of 30 feet. It was a man-made disaster for the Greater New Orleans area when the city’s levee system had over 50 failures. This led to floodwaters drowning almost 80 percent of New Orleans.  More than a million Gulf Coast residents were displaced within a week following Hurricane Katrina.

Eight years later, there are numerous ways that recovery is measured.  For the greater New Orleans area, there is a post-Katrina population rebound. The city topped a Forbes Magazine list of cities having the biggest population growths since the national recession.

In early February, the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center (GNCDC) shared data on the region’s growth, its performance, and also key economic, social, and environment trends.

Metropolitan New Orleans experienced a 0.6% increase in jobs while the nation lost 3.0% of all jobs.  The area has seen an increase in entrepreneurship. GNCDC reported an estimated 427 of every 100,000 adults started a business during 2008 to 2010, compared to 333 of every 100,000 adults nationally.

Yet, Post-Katrina housing is unaffordable. In 2011, 63 percent of renters in the city paid more than 30 percent of their pre-tax income on rent and utilities. This is an increase of 51 percent of renters in 2004.   In August 2006 there were more than 70,000 families in Louisiana living in FEMA trailers. July 2012, that number is zero.

The poverty rate is the same as it was in 1999. Unemployment has risen from 3.0 percent in October 2007 to 6.5 percent in October 2012.  Tourism, oil and gas, and shipping and logistics – the three largest economic driver industries, had a loss of tens of thousands of jobs between 1980 and 2010.

In the report, “New Orleans Community Health Profile,” prepared in January 2013 by the New Orleans Department of Health, the authors acknowledged several challenges to improving the health and quality of life for New Orleans area residents, but that the city is on the mend. It noted, “Decision-makers and citizens alike are finding newer, more modern, and efficient ways to engage collaboratively to create a future that is brighter than our past through increased opportunities for civic engagement, more governmental accountability, rebuilding public infrastructure, and advocating for a ‘Health in All Things'; policy and programmatic agenda for all who live, learn, work and play in New Orleans."

Indeed, the healthcare landscape is changing. On June 24, the public-private partnerships of four hospitals of the Louisiana State University Health Care Services Division went into effect, removing LSU from management of the hospitals.

On the individual level, a measurement may be when the construction of your new home is done; or resettling in another neighborhood.  It may be the opening of a new school or the return of a business.  All of these deliver a lesson in patience. All are a testament to the resilience of a community.  The anniversary gives one pause to see where they have come from and have faith in the future.

Nursing in the StormSandra Cordray and Denise Danna are co-authors of the book, Nursing in the Storm: Voices From Hurricane Katrina. Read more from them on our blog or check out their title.