Red Cross nurses: a special kind of nurse

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Red Cross nurse leaders Liz Dietz, Anna Likens, Karen Isabelle, and Mary Ann Reilly chat with Larry Dietz, Public Affairs Officer of the Red Cross communications team. | Screenshot: Larry Dietz.

The Red Cross nurse is part of a tradition that dates back to the founding of the organization and core to the Red Cross Mission of alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies. The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has proclaimed the theme for Nurses Day 2020 as “Nursing the World to Health”.

Nursing the suffering is the stock and trade of the Red Cross Nurse. I had the honor and pleasure of interviewing nurse leaders of the Silicon Valley Chapter to learn more about what is special about being a Red Cross Nurse and to have them share some moments in their Red Cross Service that have stood out in their minds.

Red Cross nurses are indeed special.

According to Liz Dietz, “The Red Cross nurse is allowed to practice at the highest level of our license and must be able to do many things at the same time. Red Cross nursing gives us the opportunity of using all of the resources, tools, and skills we have learned in our practice.”

“Every time I function as a Red Cross nurse able to work with fantastic people across the country and work with nurses and other health care professionals”

For Karen Isabelle, her role as a Red Cross Nurse is a legacy. She told me “My mother was a Red Cross Disaster worker and paved the way for me.” Karen appreciates the common goal all Red Cross nurses share to alleviate suffering.

Karen continued, “We are on the front line and are often the first Red Cross person a client sees. The scope of Red Cross nursing allows Red Cross nurses to use the breadth of their skills as a nurse. We are challenged as nurses to use our assessment skills to the fullest is a test of our knowledge and experience to tell us what is best for the client.”

Anna Likens summarized her feeling about Red Cross nursing this way, “All the wonderful volunteers that I work with, we have the same goal to relieve suffering at the time of disasters. Even though we all bring out own individual ways of doing things, we are all here for the same reason, it works out and is a wonderful experience.”

Another Silicon Valley Red Cross nurse, Mary Ann Reilly summed her feelings about the specialness of Red Cross nursing as camaraderie. According to Ms. Reilly, “This is the only position I have been in, it’s not a job because I chose to do it, where camaraderie builds your strength to go on. When you are working a 12-hour shift, you look at your peers and they spur you on. I have used the full range of my nursing skills. From complex hospital situations to examining a woman’s toe and finding a worm.”

Red Cross nursing also means looking out for your clients. Ms. Reilly added “At the Santa Rosa fire I met a homeless young man in his 20s, he was hungry, and it was clear that he wasn’t on his meds. We did what we could to get him situated and when he was ready to leave to look for his father, making sure that he had balanced nutritious food, not just high carb snacks.”

All of the nurses were keen to point out that they are also responsible for the care of staff and volunteers, Staff Wellness in Red Cross jargon. They said that they were motivated by the dedication of Red Cross workers who want to continue to serve in spite of injury or illness.

Staff Health is a critical role for Red Cross nurses especially since many of our volunteers are ‘older’.

It is clear that Red Cross nurses are the embodiment of the Red Cross principles of Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service and Unity. We all owe them a great deal of appreciation and gratitude.

To learn more about Red Cross services in the Northern California Coastal Region, visit