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Red Cross puts focus on nurses in disaster response

Saturday September 17, 2011
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The American Red Cross has announced implementation of a nurse-led model to improve health services for survivors in communities that have been hit by disasters.

The new model aligns Red Cross nursing with recommendations for removing scope-of-practice barriers as outlined in last year's Institute of Medicine report, "The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health."

"A strong cadre of nurses is a must for the American Red Cross," Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the Red Cross, said in a news release.

The nurse-led disaster health services community response model ensures that Red Cross nurses have the practice flexibility they need to meet the health needs of disaster clients. It allows the nearly 5,000 Red Cross nurses who provide disaster health services community response to act within their scope of practice and in accordance with their license, assessing and intervening as their schooling and experiences have prepared them to do.

That flexibility is crucial because Red Cross nursing serves people under stress who, often at a moment's notice, have been evacuated from their homes to temporary shelters. Evacuees may arrive at Red Cross shelters with chronic illnesses, disabilities or disaster-related injuries and illnesses, and often without the medications and medical equipment needed to treat those conditions.

"Within the chaos that can occur during a disaster, no amount of written material can address every situation that may arise," Sharon Stanley, the chief nurse of the Red Cross, said in the news release. "The nurse-led disaster health services community response model allows the Red Cross health team to provide the best in care while partnering with community healthcare systems on the ground to better address disaster client needs."

The National Nursing Committee of the American Red Cross plans to address additional health initiatives based on the IOM's recommendations, using action planning for implementation. The committee is a corporate-level advisory body that helps the organization achieve its strategic goals through facilitating effective nurse and health professional involvement.

American Red Cross nurses provide direct health services during disasters, teach Red Cross nurse assistant training and caregiver courses and work in military hospitals and clinics. They develop and teach lifesaving health and safety courses. Nurses also serve as Red Cross managers and members of governing bodies, and as liaisons throughout the global healthcare system.

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