Three nurses from the United States are among this year’s recipients of the Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest Red Cross international distinction a nurse can receive. The trio are among the 37 recipients from 22 countries who will be honored by the Red Cross.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) bestows the prestigious award bi-annually to exceptionally qualified nurses and voluntary nursing aides around the world who have distinguished themselves in time of peace or war by:
- Exceptional courage and devotion to the wounded, sick or disabled or to civilian victims of a conflict or disaster
- Exemplary services or a creative and pioneering spirit in the areas of public health or nursing education
Here are the three honorees nominated by the American Red Cross:
Captain Brandi Branch, MSN, RNC-OB, LNC, CD (DONA), a native of Orlando, Florida, is a member of the United States Air Force presently serving as flight commander, OB/GYN Clinic on Yokota Air Base in Japan. Captain Branch worked closely with the Red Crescent in Afghanistan to support identifying the next of kin for patients who lost their lives in Tarin Kwot.
Currently she serves as the Flight Commander (Officer in Charge) of the Yokota AFB outpatient Obstetrics and Gynecology clinic. She teaches Emergencies in Clinical Obstetrics (ECO) courses and Fetal Heart Monitoring courses designed for nurses, physicians and medical technicians. Her efforts in training the staff, coupled with the implementation of evidence-based practices, have significantly contributed to successfully averting complications and sentinel events during complex deliveries.
Additionally, as an expert Sexual Assault Medical Forensics Examiner (SAMFE), she has the distinction of being the Yokota Air Base’s program manager and was selected by the Air Force Medical Service to be the SAMFE trainer for all Military Treatment Facilities in the Pacific region. As a SAMFE, she has been involved in numerous sexual assault cases requiring collection of evidence and providing expert witness for military Judge Advocates that have either yielded in rightful convictions or appropriate acquittals.
Branch also led the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) training program to prepare medics (both with clinical and non-clinical experience) to respond to casualties with elevated first-aid skills and core trauma skills. She also teaches MEDIC-X, designed to teach non-clinical staff basic nursing skills such as vital signs, intake and output, specimen collection etc. The goal is to use MEDIC-X trained members to augment limited nursing staff to care for mass casualties in an in-patient setting.
Patricia Chappell, RN, MS, Colonel (Ret) USAF, NC, a native of Buffalo, New York and resident of Colorado Springs, Colorado, spent 30-plus years in various capacities in Health Care Administration within the U.S. Air Force Medical Service, Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense.
2022 recipient of the Ann Magnussen Award, the highest honor of nursing achievement in the American Red Cross, Chappell began volunteering for the Red Cross in 2004 as a Chapter Board member, Government Operations team member, Administrative and Facilities Lead, and Disaster Health Services Lead.
Since 2005, Chappell has served on 37 Red Cross Disaster Relief Operations (DROs). Across all, she worked tirelessly to build the capacity of Disaster Health Services locally, regionally and nationally and was the catalyst for developing the Disaster Health Services team in the Colorado & Wyoming Region.
2012 brought wildfires followed by devastating floods to Colorado. Chappell served as Job Director and assisted up to 80,000 people affected by what was then the largest wildfire in Colorado history. She became a Colorado Office of Emergency Management Mass Care Council Chair and expanded disaster feeding capacities from five major partners to more than fourteen. The feeding plan formed the new disaster feeding standard for five additional states.
She served during the July 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire, when she herself was ordered to evacuate her home. Chappell’s home survived the wildfires, and as a result of her personal brush with disaster, she has redoubled her focus on getting communities ready for disasters - not only in the Rockies, but across the U.S. Chappell supported some of the most difficult disaster responses like the October 2017 Las Vegas response and the November 2022 Colorado Springs response. Her consistent willingness to give of herself during some of the most profoundly difficult and emotional responses clearly demonstrates Chappell’s spirit of kindness and mercy.
Captain Carlos Mendoza, an Idaho native, is currently stationed at Scott AFB, IL as a Patient Movement Clinical Coordinator. He recently transferred there from the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron where he served as a Flight Nurse and deployed several times, including to Kabul, Afghanistan, during Operation Allies Refuge and the Afghan drawdown.
In Afghanistan, Mendoza helped erect the initial triage station where he provided care to people with various medical conditions. Mendoza and others from his squadron provided basic care with limited supplies for over 15 hours until all the refugees were evacuated to an off-base staging facility. Two days later he was forward deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan to coordinate medical evacuations for the refugees and the drawdown ending U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.
During his two weeks in Kabul, he was responsible for the coordination of 12 medical evacuation missions which included critically wounded civilians and service members. Under the threat of additional attacks, he exposed himself countless while bringing equipment, escorting medical flight teams, and transporting patients throughout the night and early morning hours during the evacuation process. Thirty-eight critically wounded service members and civilians, including twelve critical patients on life-sustaining devices, were evacuated on three consecutive missions within fifteen hours.
Upon his redeployment, Mendoza and fellow medical crew members worked tirelessly redesigning medical kits to be able to meet the demands of a mass casualty incident similar to what they faced when they encountered over 800 refugees at Al Udeid AB, Qatar. Today these kits are being rigorously tested by U. S. Air Force Aeromedical Evacuation teams with plans to implement globally once testing is finalized.