From her position as Senior Disaster Program Manager, American Red Cross Northern Ohio Region Disaster Health Services and Individual Disaster Care Manager, American Red Cross, Renee Palagyi, RN, shares insights about this important nursing role that touches individuals during very difficult and challenging times.
When I graduated from nursing school, I saw myself in what I felt was the standard nursing role. Cardiac intensive care was followed by surgical nursing, nursing supervision, hospice, home health, and even camp nursing. Throughout, I maintained a connection with Red Cross as a volunteer for both bloodmobiles and instruction. Ultimately, after 30 years of “traditional” nursing, I made the decision to accept a paid position with the greatest humanitarian organization in the world. I fell in love.
Our disaster health service workforce is built upon the strength of nurses with a myriad of backgrounds. Most are still employed in the field and offer their off-duty hours or even their vacations to assist clients. Early on, I spent three weeks in Alabama following the tornadoes that ripped through the state in 2011, causing nearly 400 fatalities. Overnight I was immersed in the new Integrated Care Condolence approach to assist the families of those fatalities with teams including health, mental health, casework, and spiritual care. Years of nursing management came together to help me recognize and incorporate the valuable partners assisting families on a road to recovery.
Many deployments and years later, those same skills were vital as I became the health services lead following the Las Vegas shooting. There our Family Assistance Center served over 4,400 individuals in a three-week period. Our team worked with many who needed to talk far more than they needed the full nursing assessment and a dressing change. Every person who came to our stations shared a need for human contact. The caring, generous spirit of Red Cross nurses who came from across the country walked with them and helped meet the need.
Each of us came to nursing to give back. I am blessed to have found my true nursing niche.