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One Woman: Many Hats


It’s hard to keep up with Gretchen O’Grady.

Like most Red Cross staff members, O’Grady is responsible for ensuring that a lot of different Red Cross services are delivered to the people in her community.

She is the Pine Tree Chapter director of Disaster and Emergency Services. She is the chapter’s director of Service to the Armed Forces. O’Grady is also the State Nurse Liaison Advisor for a seven-state area from Maine to New York.

A registered nurse, O’Grady believes there is one common thread that pulls all of her work together. “The Red Cross is a health care organization,” she says.

Preparing For and Responding to Emergencies

“Every person affected by a disaster has their health and their mental health affected,” O’Grady says. “This is true whether the disaster is a single family house fire or a Hurricane Katrina.”

O’Grady is responsible for programs that teach people in the vast stretches of northern, central and eastern Maine how to prepare for emergencies. Last year, nearly 2000 Mainers were trained to Be Red Cross Ready.

When a fire or other disaster happens, as it did more than three times every week last year, O’Grady and her team of disaster volunteers respond. Her nursing experience enhances the disaster services the Red Cross provides, especially in determining the health care needs of people staying at shelters.

Providing Military Services

The American Red Cross serves and supports members of the military, veterans, and their families, providing needed comfort and care in military and veterans hospitals, support for military families with vital social services and by providing emergency communications to keep families connected when they need it most.

With 12 percent of Maine’s population either active or retired military, providing Red Cross services is vital. As director of Service to the Armed Forces, the responsibility for military services falls to O’Grady.

She says being a registered nurse is an advantage. Because a large part of the job is to support active duty military requesting emergency leave, a registered nurse is just the right person to have a conversation with a physician or another nurse about what is going on.

Serving as a Red Cross Nurse Leader

Gretchen O’Grady is also a State Nurse Liaison Advisor, one of only nine appointed by Red Cross national headquarters to support the many programs that engage thousands of Red Cross nurse volunteers across the nation.

She has been laying the groundwork for nurse involvement in the American Red Cross along the north Atlantic seaboard. The Red Cross needs more nurse volunteers in every community, to serve as disaster volunteers, to teach and develop health and safety classes, to work with members of the military and their families, and more.

Most recently, O’Grady spent two weeks as the first ever intern in the Office of the Chief Nurse in Washington, D.C. Her assignment—to develop an annual internship program so other nurse leaders from field offices can get a first-hand view of Red Cross nursing from the broad, national level.

Because Gretchen O’Grady wears Red Cross disaster services, service to the Armed Forces and nursing hats, she is the perfect person to design an internship that will enhance a colleague’s ability to carry out the Red Cross mission to provide relief to victims of disasters and help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.