Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Susan Speraw

Committee Members

Jan Witucki-Brown, Linda Mefford, Jan Lee, Rosalind Hackett


After hurricanes Katrina and Rita, faith-based organizations were among the most trusted and efficient organizations responding in New Orleans. The primary purposes of this study are twofold: 1) to understand the experience of faith-based disaster response for those charged with organizing and executing such a massive, grassroots effort, those delivering direct service, and the survivors who seek and receive assistance; 2) to understand the impact of the disaster event and levels of hope in the lives of those who provide and receive assistance. These research purposes were achieved by using a mixed methods research design that included ethnographic participant-observer field experience, existential phenomenology interviews, and the administration of the Herth Hope Index, the Hope Visual Analogue Scale and the Impact of Event Scale – Revised. Study participants included faith-based disaster response staff and volunteers as well as the New Orleans residents they assisted. All research findings were triangulated. The qualitative contextual ground for the experience was “Divine Agency.” The figural themes were “Decision Point,” “Social Suffering,” “Stranger-to-Stranger Interactions,” “Communitas,” “Transformation,” and “Reflection.” With a possible maximum of 48, the scores for the Herth Hope Index included a mean of 42.5 for the staff, 41.5 for the volunteers and 46 for the residents. The scores on the Impact of Event Scale – Revised, among all participant groups, revealed almost all of the participants experienced significant emotional impact. The mean Impact of Event Scale – Revised score was 34.22 for the staff, 37.63 for the volunteers and 47.5 for the residents of New Orleans. Implications for nursing education and practice were identified with emphasis on the emerging nursing specialties of faith-community nursing and homeland security nursing. Future research should incorporate intervention studies treating faith-based disaster response and strategies to encourage hope as interventions. Potential areas for public policy development related to faith-based disaster response discussed include reallocation of public funds to faith-based disaster response, encrypted case management systems, and fee for service disaster response activities.

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