More than 40,000 people in the Sacramento, California, area attended Red Cross disaster education presentations last year. And the local Capital Region Red Cross chapter responded to more than 700 disasters. Student nurses who are using their skills to help build resiliency in the community helped make these services possible.
Student Nurse Intern Program
For the past seven years, the chapter has partnered with the Samuel Merritt University School of Nursing in an intern program. Under supervision of volunteer nurses, students help in provide a wide range of Red Cross services. They assist with school and public injection clinics, Service to the Armed Forces events, First Aid Stations at community events, and more.
The Red Cross values these interns. “It gives people at the chapter a real spark to be working with these highly motivated students,” said Rita Grady, a volunteer Disaster Health Services manager. “Our chapter is also able to benefit from increased capacity to spread information pertaining to disaster preparedness, safety and other health issues.
Learning to Support Disaster Health Services
Much of the student nurse internship focuses on services provided by Red Cross volunteer health professionals. The experience allows each student to recognize that nursing skills can be used outside the hospital setting.
Emphasis is placed on disaster preparedness. Students attend basic disaster classes and are encouraged to become shelter volunteers. They are expected to attend American Red Cross and county public health disaster preparedness meetings with Red Cross nurse leaders. They participate in disaster shelter surveys to be sure the shelter is meeting the needs of people with access and functional needs. Student nurse interns also inventory and restock Disaster Health Services Shelter Kits.
Grady talks about setting up a local shelter following a disaster and calling the first group of interns to come in for a shift starting at midnight. While working at the registration table, students noticed the long line that formed at the nurse’s desk—“a boondoggle” in Grady’s words. The interns later sorted out that assessment questions answered “yes” during registration were unnecessarily sending shelter clients to the nurse’s desk, and proposed an alternative. The next class of interns presented the new tool to a regional shelter worker council, and received approval. Now the tool is being used all over Northern California.
A Boost from the Susan Hassmiller Nursing Award
During 2012, the student nurse intern program has been able to expand activities, thanks to winning the Susan Hassmiller Nursing Award. The American Red Cross national award funds programs that increase nurse engagement in policy, leadership and service delivery.
The award has allowed nursing interns to better serve Sacramento’s Russian community. Originally interns designed small first aid kits that were distributed at a Russian church. They purchased services to get selected Red Cross preparedness hand-outs translated into Russian, and now use these materials at community fairs.
A new class of student nurse interns just started this month. They, too, will make contributions toward building community resiliency in the Sacramento area.