The Northwest Region of the American Red Cross is no stranger to military installations and military medical facilities. Multiple military medical facilities span the state of Washington, serving service members and their families on several military installations. A lesser known fact about those helping inside these facilities, however, is that many of them are Red Cross volunteers.
Kristin Mather is regional program manager for the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) function, based at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) near Tacoma. She says 113 Red Cross volunteers currently serve at one or another of the military medical facilities that are found in the Northwest Region, which includes Washington and northern Idaho.
JBLM is home base for the SAF program, which supports the military in a variety of ways. It is also home to Madigan Army Medical Center – one of the largest and most comprehensive military medical facilities in the United States. Since Madigan is by far the biggest medical facility in the region, it figures that the largest contingent of Red Cross volunteers serving military medicine work there.
Mather says a Red Cross volunteer could pick from a long list of possible choices of work at Madigan and
elsewhere. Some of those include:
- Reception Desk: greeting new arrivals and helping them find their way through the vast Madigan complex.
- Patient Escorts: helping transport patients from place to place within the facility.
- Hospital Administration: assisting in facilities such as the hospital pharmacy.
None of these jobs require previous training or experience. Once you sign up to volunteer, the Red Cross will provide all the training needed.
Mather is always on the lookout for volunteers who do have medical training and experience, though. Supporting the staff at Madigan are several doctors and pharmacists, now retired and back on the job as Red Cross volunteers. Obviously, many more such volunteers would be welcome. “We are looking for anyone who is credentialed and retired and wants to come on board as medical volunteers,” she says.
While the Madigan program currently shows 96 active volunteers, there were many more in the past. COVID
imposed so many limitations on service that volunteer ranks have thinned. Mather could make good use of any new volunteers looking to make an impact. No matter where you live in Washington, there is a volunteer opportunity not far away.
Madigan may be the biggest medical facility in the region, but it is far from the only one. There is also the big Navy hospital in Bremerton and facilities at military bases in Spokane, Everett, and on Whidbey Island. There are state homes for Veterans in Port Orchard, Walla Walla, Spokane, and Orting – plus the VA Medical Center in Walla Walla.
Once you volunteer, you will get Red Cross training in a variety of disciplines. You will have to produce a health certificate showing you are up to date on all vaccines. You will be given specialized training in the whys and wherefores of HIPAA – the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It codifies rules on health care confidentiality and explains how medical information is collected and disseminated.
If you do volunteer for a Red Cross role in supporting military medicine, you will be following a grand tradition. Clara Barton, who founded the American Red Cross in 1881, was a battlefield nurse during the Civil War. You won’t be asked to serve on a battlefield, but you will be doing important work. Mather calls her volunteers “a lot of amazing people.” Without volunteers, she says, “We could not carry out our function.”
To learn more about how the Red Cross supports the military community, click here.