By Stephanie Heckman, Red Cross Public Relations intern
May 6 marks the beginning of National Nurses Week! All of us at the American Red Cross celebrate the dedication and contributions of our nation’s nurses. Currently, there are nearly 20,000 nurses and nursing students who support the Red Cross and serve our communities through volunteer efforts or paid positions.
Nurses first became an integral part of the Red Cross 125 years ago, in 1888 after a Yellow Fever epidemic struck the states and in 1989 when the Johnstown Floods, led by Red Cross founder and nurse, Clara Barton, became the first disaster relief effort. The Red Cross Nursing Service was created in 1909; since then, many Red Cross nurses have played important roles in the development of the profession.
Volunteer nurses are involved in disaster response teams, health fairs, military hospitals, first aid service teams and blood donation drives. They teach and help develop Red Cross essential courses including CPR, AED and First Aid, Disaster Health Services, Nurse Assistant Training, Babysitting and Family Caregiving. Many nurses also hold Red Cross management and supervisory roles including as exectives of chapters or as regional and national board members.
Volunteer and student nurses teach a public education program called Protecting Life, Promoting Health: Nurses/ Student Nurses for Blood Donations. This educational program is presented at community nonprofit organizations, high schools, student groups, workplaces and places of worship, with the goal of easing fears and misconceptions about blood donation.
The Red Cross provides nursing opportunities through the Susan Hasmiller Nursing Award. Created in 2007, it awards a yearly $5,000 grant to any Red Cross chapter that demonstrates programs that involve nurses in the local community through policy and leadership.
We also celebrate the nation’s greatest nurses through the Ann Magnussen Award, presented annually to an employed or volunteer nurse who has made an exceptional impact on the Red Cross nursing programs while also demonstrating compassion and humanitarianism.
Through the Florence Nightingale Award, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Crescent also recognizes exceptional nurses who have provided healing to the injured in war or who have contributed to public health innovation.
We encourage nursing students to consider volunteering while they are completing their education. Nursing student volunteers can take a blended course in Disaster Health and Sheltering. They can also get involved through providing immunizations, serving on the First Aid Service Team or Disaster Action Team and organizating blood drives.
To become a volunteer and gain professional experience, search for volunteer opportunities.