Trained Well: UNCW Alumna Sets Up Post-Florence Field Hospital

Just days after Hurricane Florence trudged through North Carolina, Brittany Mobley Outlaw ’07, '10M sent an email to Nancy Grant, her former School of Nursing professor in the College of Health and Human Services. It read, in part, “Just know you trained me well! I am running a field hospital in Duplin.”

Outlaw is a nurse practitioner at Vidant Duplin Hospital in Kenansville, a community hospital of Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. Flooding due to hurricane conditions in parts of Duplin County cut off access to medical Outlaw care. In a matter of hours, Beulaville, Outlaw’s hometown, became an island with no access to emergency treatment. Only EMS and a few medical providers who live there could help. A field hospital was set up at Goshen Medical Center, a primary care office in Beulaville.

Armed with a tackle box stocked with medication, Outlaw, Dr. Danny Pate, a local family physician, and two registered nurses treated patients who needed immediate medical attention. Dr. Jon Kornegay, her supervising physician, was stationed at the hospital. He called EMS prior to transporting patients to the makeshift clinic, which was running on generator power. No labs or x-rays were available and no pharmacists were available to call for extra medications. 

“We charted on paper charts,” Outlaw says. “I saw how medicine was practiced before the luxuries we all take for granted in today’s society.” She saw a variety of patients throughout the four days she worked at the clinic. A 40-week pregnant female was sent to the hospital to deliver. A patient was airlifted to Greenville for an emergency appendectomy, another for a small bowel obstruction. Outlaw never knew what to expect when EMS trucks pulled up to the clinic doors. “An abdominal pain can turn from stable to critical in a matter of minutes,” she said.

Outlaw’s training with Grant, a former cardiac nurse, and experience in her first job in the cardiac unit at New Hanover Regional Medical Center prepared her to act during a life-threatening emergency. “I knew the chest pain patient was coming,” Outlaw says. “Then, Dr. Kornegay called me and said, ‘This is an ST elevated myocardial infarction,’ a cardiac emergency. I knew the more time this patient’s heart was not perfusing, the more his heart muscle would be damaged.”

The team had lytics (clot busters) in their kit. After discussing the case with Drs. Kornegay and Pate, the team decided in order to save this patient's life, he needed clot-busting medications. “This has never been given in the field outside of a hospital setting in our county,” Outlaw says. She mixed the medication and administered it while riding in the EMS truck to the fire station, where EastCare was waiting to airlift the patient to Greenville. He eventually underwent a triple bypass in early October.

Outlaw said the assessment skills she learned at the School of Nursing taught her to assess patients so all their needs can be prioritized. “The leadership skills I learned allowed me to work with the different cardiologists and other specialists so that all my patients got the best care possible. The instructors always stressed that nursing would always a part of you no matter where you go or what type of nursing you are involved in.”

“As a nursing student, Brittany showed a dedication to learning and compassion for her patients," Grant says about her former student. "I am proud to see this dedication make a difference in the lives of our community.”

The most rewarding part of her job, Outlaw said, is seeing the patient come full-circle, from admission to discharge. “Many times you take care of the families just as much as the actual patients. I never thought I would return to my home county to practice, but I have enjoyed every minute.”  

-- Amy Mangus, CHHS marketing & communications coordinator