During National Nurses Week, the American Red Cross recognizes and thanks the thousands of nurses who have served under the Red Cross banner. Red Cross nurses encompass a proud tradition of service, playing a vital role in easing human suffering in their own communities as well as in times of national disaster.
For more than 125 years, the American people have counted on the compassion and commitment of Red Cross nurses when their community is threatened. Since its founding in 1881 by Clara Barton, nurses have represented the very essence of Red Cross guiding principles —they are the human hand and heart that make the Red Cross the nation’s premier emergency preparedness and response organization.
With the establishment of the Red Cross Nursing Service in 1909, nurses were positioned to develop and initiate key national programs that have become a part of our society’s fabric. The influential Rural Nursing Service sent nurses into remote areas to provide much needed health care to communities that lacked health care access.
Red Cross nurses formed and responded as a reserve nurse corps in two world wars. Red Cross nursing influenced the way that public health was imbedded into our society as well as aspects of the care received in our Veterans Affairs (VA) system.
At present, more than 20,000 nurses are American Red Cross workers, most of them volunteers. They work on Disaster Action Teams, deploy to national incidents, assist with blood drives, function as nurse volunteers in the Veteran’s Administration and military health care system, and develop and teach health and safety courses on a wide variety of topics, including CPR, First Aid, disaster healthcare, Nurse Assistant Training and family care giving.
As the most trusted profession in America, nurses are uniquely positioned to provide information regarding disaster preparedness, emergency communications, and pandemic planning in their communities.
Nurses play an especially vital role in our Disaster Health Services. As members of a nurse-led response team, nurses and nursing students respond to the disaster-related needs of clients, providing critical health assessment, care and assistance, and replacement of essential health care items such as prescription medications, medical supplies and equipment.
Red Cross nurses working in shelters and similarly populated areas use public health surveillance and initiate isolation areas for clients with communicable diseases, working with the local public health system as needed. They also provide health services to Red Cross disaster workers on the disaster relief operation.
We thank our Red Cross nurses – past and present - for their service, strength and dedication.