Red Cross nurses have been leaders in promoting and supporting community health since Jane Delano formed the American Red Cross Nursing Service in 1910. Red Cross nurses exemplify the humanitarian mission of the American Red Cross, one that, according to its Web site, “connects us to people and communities across the nation and around the world. The common bonds of humanity and compassion unite us together, not just in the face of emergencies and disasters, but in helping our neighbors every day.”
More than 15,000 nurses are involved in paid and volunteer capacities at all levels throughout the Red Cross. They provide a health perspective for the organization, promote evidence-based practice, and serve communities around the globe across the five lines of service: biomedical services; disaster services; international services; preparedness, health, and safety services; and service to the armed forces.
Each year, the Red Cross recognizes a select number of nursing leaders who demonstrate excellence and exemplify commitment to service through volunteerism. Last year, a record number of nurses garnered the attention of national and international recognition committees, distinguishing themselves within and outside the organization. Seven remarkable American Red Cross nurses were recognized in 2013 for their service and leadership in three separate award categories.
FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE MEDAL
Established in 1912, the Florence Nightingale Medal is awarded to members or helpers of the National Red Cross or an affiliated medical or nursing institution who, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), “have distinguished themselves in times of peace or war by exceptional courage and devotion to the wounded, sick or disabled or to civilian victims of a conflict or disaster, [or by] exemplary services or a creative and pioneering spirit in the areas of public health or nursing education.” Of the 32 nurses selected by the ICRC to receive the medal, five are from the United States: Marie O. Etienne, Tener Goodwin Veenema, Vivian Littlefield, Lieutenant Commander Deborah Redman, and Sharon A. R. Stanley.
Marie O. Etienne, DNP, ARNP, FNP, PNP, GNP, PLNC, is a professor at Miami Dade College's Benjamín León School of Nursing. She serves on the Red Cross National Nursing Committee as a representative of the National Black Nurses Association and on the Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and its Nursing and Caregiving Sub-Council. Etienne has been leading medical missions since 2005. She played a lead role as NP in relief efforts after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, where she provided triage, care for simple and complex injuries, and oversaw the transportation of patients to other areas for care. Working in challenging conditions, Etienne not only cared for patients but also inspired her team. She was sensitive to the emotional and mental health needs of her patients. When one young girl wanted a blanket and a woman nearby asked Etienne to give a blanket to the “legless one,” Etienne gently responded that the girl was a person, had a name, and deserved respect.
Tener Goodwin Veenema, PhD, MPH, MS, RN, FAAN, president and chief executive officer of the Tener Consulting Group, LLC, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, and longtime Red Cross volunteer, has received international recognition for her expertise in disaster nursing and public health preparedness. Since 2001, Veenema has worked with the Red Cross to prepare nurses to respond to large-scale disasters and public health emergencies. Veenema was a senior consultant for disaster preparedness for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and currently serves as a member of the Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council, where she works to ensure the validity of scientific-based disaster response initiatives. The author of two interactive e-learning programs, ReadyRN: Handbook for Disaster Nursing and Emergency Preparedness (Mosby Elsevier, 2009) and Red Cross ReadyRN Disaster and Emergency Preparedness for Health Services (American Red Cross, 2007), Veenema is currently exploring the impact of Red Cross nursing care in disaster shelters. She also often provides mentorship and direction to new nurse leaders.
Vivian Littlefield, PhD, RN, FAAN, is dean emeritus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing and former national chair of nursing for the Red Cross, having served the organization for over 25 years. A recipient of the Ann Magnussen Award, the Red Cross's highest honor of individual nursing achievement, Littlefield volunteers locally in Wisconsin and at the national level. She currently serves as a biomedical nursing consultant and was instrumental in creating a new program, Nurses Educating to Help Save Lives, which engages nurses and nursing students in increasing community awareness of the need for blood donations, particularly in underserved areas. Littlefield serves as a mentor to Red Cross nurse leaders, supports programs for nursing students, and promotes community health and the growth of the Red Cross Regional Nurse Network. She has worked to increase the diversity of nurse volunteers and has instituted a nursing student presence on the National Nursing Committee. She established and continues as chair of the Red Cross Heritage Program, which is designed to recognize and reconnect former and current Red Cross nurses.
Lieutenant Commander Deborah (Lynn) Redman, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, a family NP in the U.S. Navy Reserve, served as American Red Cross coordinator for soldiers in Schweinfurt, Germany, from 1984 to 1986. Although Redman currently has a private cardiology practice, she still volunteers for overseas medical missions. Over 2,000 people in seven countries received care from Redman and her team during recent trips to Central and South America. In 2010, Redman served in Afghanistan, where she conducted medical outreach missions to Afghan women and children and educated Afghan medical providers. Speaking of her work in Afghanistan, her commanding officer said that Redman “continued to seek opportunities to help the local Afghan population despite the personal risk to herself. Her experiences in Afghanistan were challenging, but she stated that she would be willing to put her life on the line again for the sake of providing care and teaching others.” When asked about her work, Redman responded that as a nurse, “It's just what you do.”
Sharon A. R. Stanley, PhD, RN, FAAN, served as chief nurse for the American Red Cross from March 2009 through July 2013. During her tenure, Stanley provided leadership and strategic direction for Red Cross nurses, and in 2011 she was instrumental in enabling them to provide disaster health services consistent with their education and training. Stanley also helped to develop infrastructure and performance metrics to better ensure community care by volunteer nurses in every Red Cross business line, including service to the armed forces and biomedical services. During her tenure, Stanley restored partnerships with the National Black Nurses Association, the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, and with the national network of public health organizations. She also helped to establish Nursing and Caregiving as the first nurse-led subcouncil of the Scientific Advisory Council. Colonel (ret.) Stanley served in the Army Nurse Corps for 34 years, including 12 years on active duty. She is the recipient of the Army Surgeon General's “A” Proficiency Designator, is a member of the Order of Military Medical Merit, and was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in November 2013. Stanley continues to share her expertise as a Red Cross volunteer and to strengthen Red Cross nursing and health as a Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow. Stanley is president-elect of the Association of Public Health Nurses.
SUSAN HASSMILLER NURSING AWARD
The Susan Hassmiller Nursing Award was established in 2007 to recognize one Red Cross region each year with a cash grant. According to the Red Cross Web site, the award “enhances Red Cross local service delivery capacity through the increased engagement of nurses in policy, leadership, and service delivery positions.” This year's recipient is the American Red Cross of the Chesapeake Region in Baltimore, Maryland.
Phillip Bovender, BSN, RN, CCRN, is the volunteer Red Cross nurse leader for Maryland who accepted the award on behalf of the region. Bovender initiated the region's successful proposal to increase African American blood donations. Convinced that many individuals do not donate blood simply because they haven't been asked, Bovender created an awareness campaign in partnership with the Black Nurses Association of Baltimore and local nursing schools. He proposed to improve community awareness and understanding through a blood donation disparity symposium, a poster contest, and other educational offerings targeted to high schools and colleges. The project will also explore creative media messages and engagement of nursing students through the Red Cross Nurses Educating to Help Save Lives program.
Established in 1973, the Harriman Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service is the highest honor bestowed upon a Red Cross volunteer.
Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, who has volunteered for the Red Cross for over 38 years, is one of two recipients of the award in 2013 (former Red Cross Board of Governors member Ann Kaplan is the other). Hassmiller, senior adviser for nursing at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is a former member of the Red Cross Board of Governors, serving as chair of Disaster Services and of the September 11 Recovery Program. She currently serves on the Red Cross National Nursing Committee, chairing the communications subcommittee, which ensures that messages about nursing and health are communicated throughout the organization and across the nation. She is also the current board chair of the Red Cross of Central New Jersey. As study director for the Institute of Medicine's Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health report, Hassmiller led an initiative in which Red Cross senior nursing and health leaders adopted three of the report goals: to remove scope-of-practice barriers; prepare and enable nurses to lead change to advance health; and build an infrastructure for the collection and analysis of interprofessional health care workforce data.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR NURSES
All seven of these nurse leaders share a passion to provide nursing care on an individual level and to support systems and processes that promote health for members of the armed forces and for civilian communities—every day and also during disasters. There are many leadership opportunities for nurses within the Red Cross, particularly at local and state levels. Importantly, nursing students can engage with the Red Cross by taking disaster classes, becoming members of their local Disaster Action Team, or becoming instructors in CPR and first aid, babysitting, or pet first aid. Those interested in learning more can contact their local Red Cross or visit www.redcross.org/support/volunteer/nurses.—Linda M. MacIntyre, PhD, RN, chief nurse, American Red Cross