UW-Madison nursing students to help in tornado recovery effort

May 19, 2017 By Mike Klein

Seven University of Wisconsin–Madison nursing students attending a community outreach program in northwest Wisconsin now plan to help clean up after a tornado struck May 16, destroying a mobile home park near Chetek.

The Community/Public Health Immersion Clinical program in Rusk and Barron counties introduces the students to rural health care issues as they aid communities in providing health education. Typically, students work with community action agencies, public health departments, human services, the critical access hospital, and other community entities as they learn about the rural population’s needs . The students  focus on increasing awareness about  issues affecting the community  through health education and promotion activities regarding alcohol/substance abuse,  immunizations, fall prevention initiatives , as well as mental health, housing, food security, and other initiatives.

The group, headed 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.

UW-Madison nursing students in the Community/Public Health Immersion Clinical program in Rusk and Barron counties. The students will be helping with tornado recovery efforts.

UW-Madison nursing students in the Community/Public Health Immersion Clinical program in Rusk and Barron counties. The students will be helping with tornado recovery efforts. Submitted photo

So starting on Saturday, May 20, the nursing students will go 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 will learn firsthand how to deal with housing issues, she said.

The students will be in the program until June 2.

Tags: nursing, outreach