Comfort in the eye of the storm: a survey of evacuees with special medical needs.

INTRODUCTION: This article reports on a descriptive study conducted in a Medical Special Needs Shelter with evacuees from Hurricane Gustav in 2008. This shelter was operated by the faculty, students and staff of the University of Texas at Tyler in Tyler, TX.

METHODS: A descriptive survey approach was used to determine the perception of the shelter experience of evacuees with special medical needs. Evacuees were interviewed by baccalaureate nursing students to assess experiences with the admission process, rest and sleep, food activities, medications and treatments and feelings of safety.

RESULTS: Most evacuees were ambulatory, but 48% required human or mechanical assistance. Most had chronic health problems. Overall, the evacuees were pleased with the shelter experience.

DISCUSSION: The admission process was expedient and the evacuees felt welcomed and safe in the shelter. Most slept without difficulty, and boredom was not a problem. Assistance with medications or management of medical conditions was provided for 63%. Areas of dissatisfaction were toilet and shower facilities and quality/quantity of food.