With summer just around the corner, scheduling vacation time is on a lot of people’s minds, including American Red Cross volunteer Jane Dean. Instead of a tropical getaway however, Jane is planning her next disaster deployment.
Jane had considered joining the Red Cross for many years, but it took sitting next to someone wearing a Red Cross hat at her Community Emergency Response Team training (CERT) to get the ball rolling. Her new CERT friend was also a Red Cross volunteer and told Jane all she needed know to join the organization through her local Long Beach Chapter. Right away, Jane immersed herself in trainings and chapter meetings. In short order she learned of the Disaster Health Services arm of the Red Cross, discovering the perfect place to lend her three decades of experience as a registered nurse.
Since joining in 2015, Jane has supported a multitude of projects available to volunteers, including helping veterans at the VA, training school children on disaster safety and preparedness, working flu clinics and health fairs and once a year using her vacation time to deploy to National disasters.
“Health Services is very busy during a disaster, and I enjoy using my vacation time to make a difference for people affected by crisis,” says Jane. “Sometimes people just need a band aid, often they need their blood pressure checked or medications refilled, and on occasion paramedics need to be called. I never forget that if I had to evacuate my home and stay in a shelter, I would want someone to be empathetic and kind towards me. To care what happens to me.”
While Jane finds disaster healthcare presents heart-wrenching and time-consuming cases, she also never feels alone in her work. With the support of caseworkers, mental health providers and public health nurses, Jane finds the commitment towards teamwork amongst Red Cross health professionals increases her capacity to deliver on the shared humanitarian mission.
A woman of many talents, Jane is a licensed Amateur Extra Ham Radio operator as well, a skill that proved useful during a handful of emergencies. Jane also finds imaginative solutions to aid shelter residents: One gentleman needed support for walking and while waiting for the logistics team to deliver a cane, Jane made a temporary cane out of a tall stick with a baby diaper for a handle. When another shelter resident could not walk her dog due to extreme pavement heat, Jane fashioned dog booties also out of baby diapers.
As this year’s National Nurses Week launches, it provides an opportunity to recognize the invaluable work of all nurses, especially those who volunteer their expertise and time to the Red Cross, just like the Los Angeles Region’s very own rock star Jane Dean.
“I get an amazing sense of fulfillment and great joy to volunteer when people are in distress” expressed Jane, “I love seeing people smile even when I’ve helped with something so very small. This is my calling and I’ll do this forever.”