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Nurses Turn to the American Red Cross for Disaster Response Training

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Since Sept. 11, 2001 the American Red Cross has experienced an increase in the number of nurses requesting disaster response training from around the world.

Like many, nurses contacted the Red Cross with offers to help those affected by the tragic events. Though armed with extensive professional and health care training, the unique circumstances behind large scale disaster relief showed additional, disaster-specific training was needed. In the wake of the terrorist attacks and the potential for future incidents, nurses are ensuring they and their communities are prepared by turning to the Red Cross for disaster response training and certification.

"Disasters often introduce some unique health and emergency needs, so having trained personnel is key," said Nancy McKelvey, chief nurse, American Red Cross. "Combining the skills that nurses possess with those gained from disaster training expands the network of people who can provide appropriate care during a disaster-helping to save lives," she points out. "We are pleased to do whatever we can to help the nursing community get this lifesaving training."

Having as many nurses as possible equipped with the skills and certification necessary to respond to disasters is a priority of the Red Cross. During a disaster, nurses often work in Disaster Health Services, one of 25 roles or "functions" in Red Cross disaster response, providing service in locations such as shelters, emergency aid stations, service centers and outreach teams.

Utilizing their professional skills, nursing activities include assessing and meeting immediate health and emotional needs of disaster victims and Red Cross relief workers as well as making referrals and providing financial assistance for disaster-caused health needs.

More than 500 student nurses and nursing faculty were trained recently during the annual convention of the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA) held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Training for NSNA members included an overview of Red Cross disaster response and the roles of various local, state and federal agencies and organizations. Participants also received information on how disasters affect communities, common health and emergency needs, types of settings in which they would serve and how nurses support an overall disaster relief operation.

Nurses interested in taking American Red Cross disaster training should contact their local Red Cross chapter or visit the Red Cross Web site for more information.

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