When disaster strikes, nurses are always on the front lines of the relief effort.
Thanks to training received through the Red Cross, the city of Dallas and in the classroom, West Coast University-Dallas students were able to volunteer at local shelters for Hurricane Harvey evacuees.
"We are continuing our training efforts with the city of Dallas with the CERT program — the community emergency response team — and those students are going out and providing care," WCU-Dallas professor Stephanie Ayers said. "Our Nursing 491 students are volunteering through Red Cross to go down to the mega shelter or community shelters to provide triage basic nursing care under the training and partnership with nurses."
Lisa Morgan, a communications associate with the American Red Cross-North Texas Region, recommended student-nurses explore joining the Student Nurse Ambassador Program at the Red Cross. Both she and Ayers, an experienced disaster shelter coordinator, said students interested in working with victims should register with emergency services as soon as possible to avoid being delayed by the rush of volunteers that usually come immediately after an incident.
"It's really critical that they go through all of their fundamental training, orientation and all of that ahead of time so that they can move very quickly to help those who need it most," Morgan said.
WCU-Dallas BSN student Ahreum Kim volunteered at the Red Cross mega-shelter in Dallas in the weeks after Harvey. She said despite seeing the shelter and evacuees on TV and social media, it was still hard to process the concept of supporting thousands of people in a huge area used to park cars.
"Once there are bodies in front of you, it's a whole different story. I caught on to all the stress, anxiety, all the emotions in the air that people are still trying to shift through and trying to manage. As prepared as you can be, your first call to answer a disaster at that level is a whole other story," Kim said.
Fellow BSN student Brittnie Holcomb said she was really glad to have gone through CERT training as part of her education.
"I feel like everybody should have this certification, should be skilled in this area, should know about potential disasters that could occur and how to handle them properly," Holcomb said. "If you can volunteer, just do it as soon as possible because there are a lot of people in need right now."