A Thank You Note to Volunteers Who Support Disaster Response
By Anne “Belle” Griffin, MPH,BSN, RN
Clara Barton was 60 years old and working in the U.S. Patent Office in Washington DC when the U.S. Civil War broke out. Realizing the wounded soldiers needed early intervention, she gathered first aid supplies and volunteered herself to care for them on the front line of war. Over the next several years and despite many obstacles, Clara Barton was determined to assure that the U.S. would sign and commit to the Geneva Convention Treaty in 1881, establishing the American Red Cross with its mission to protect the sick and wounded during times of war.1 Today, there are 20,000 volunteer Red Cross nurses who are committed to serving in disaster response, health and safety instruction and program development.2
Recent disasters continue to present opportunities for the same kind of commitment. Hurricane Harvey recently caused overwhelming damage to 40 counties in south eastern Texas. Hurricanes Irma and Maria were right behind, wreaking havoc on the infrastructure of Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Devastating fires in northern California followed. In less than a two-month period, the American Red Cross received over 5,000 new applications from health and mental health volunteers3. Active Red Cross volunteers have provided nearly 195,000 mental health and health services to support and care for those affected by each of the hurricanes and fires.4 Social media outlets provide evidence of the many nurses who have worked well beyond their obligation to support continuity of patient care.
It has now been three years since Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center invited 18 nursing leaders with disaster nursing expertise to develop strategies to assure our nursing workforce is prepared to respond to disaster.5 This effort evolved into the Society for the Advancement of Disaster Nursing (SADN) and a strong sense of volunteerism has driven its success. The initiative is expanding and the number of volunteers have more than doubled.
Whether it be in the field, in a hospital or in a classroom; SADN wishes to thank those who serve as volunteers and dedicate their time, expertise and energy to be of service to those who are impacted by random and devastating disasters.
5- Veenema, T. G., Griffin, A., Gable, A. R., MacIntyre, L., Simons, R. A. D. M., Couig, M. P., … & Larson, E. (2016). Nurses as leaders in disaster preparedness and response—a call to action. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 48(2), 187-200. Link to Abstract