Minnesota nurse receives highest international Red Cross award

This year, our own Janice Springer is among the selected recipients of the prestigious Florence Nightingale Medal. This honor from the International Committee of the Red Cross is the highest international distinction a nurse can receive.

Janice Springer, DNP, RN, PHN, received this prestigious recognition for extraordinary service in disaster situations and in public health and nursing education.

Dr. Springer co-authored the American Red Cross Disaster Health and Sheltering course, used to teach more than 18,000 nursing students nationwide how to serve as Disaster Health Services volunteers. Students who complete the course may go on to become official Red Cross nurses after graduation, expanding the pool of prepared Disaster Health Services volunteers. She also created the evidence-based Cot-to-Cot© model to assist clients with functional and access needs in American Red Cross shelters.

Dr. Springer is a Red Cross volunteer who has deployed to 15 disaster relief operations since 2005, often as a leader. Having held several Red Cross leadership roles within Disaster Cycle Services and the International Services Department, she is currently serving as Volunteer Partner for International Recovery, expanding her public health nursing expertise internationally.

Dr. Springer serves as a disaster public health and disability integration subject matter expert for the North American Humanitarian Response Summit, a coalition of U.S. and international government and humanitarian response organizations, helping plan for international cross-border catastrophic disasters. She has published extensively in nursing textbooks and professional journals and has presented papers and posters on her research and best practices throughout the world.

Dr. Springer’s contributions to public health nursing, disaster nursing and the Red Cross are exceptional. The effects of her dedication, leadership and work will continue to spread their positive impact on Red Cross nursing and support individuals affected by disasters around the world.

Click here for more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer.

Red Cross needs health professionals

The American Red Cross relies on more than 20,000 nurses and other health professionals who bring our mission to life each day. If you’re a nurse, nursing student or other health professional, we need your help! There are volunteer opportunities in direct service, leadership and behind-the-scenes.  A few examples are:

 • Disaster Health Services –team members and leaders

• Disaster Mental Health Services –team members and leaders

• Pillowcase Project Instructor (educating 3rd-5th graders about disasters)

• Blood Donor Ambassador Leader

• Nursing Network Regional Nurse Leaders and team members

• Service to the Armed Forces Hero Care Case Management

We hope that you consider volunteering with the Red Cross – you can have a meaningful impact by serving individuals and communities.

Get started here.

Vonnie Thomas, a courageous Red Cross volunteer for 65 years

Vonnie Thomas on her official day, June 28, 2016. Photo: Lara Leimbach

June 28, 2016 was officially Vonnie Thomas Day in Minnesota after Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed it so in honor of Ms. Thomas’s sixty-five years of courageous Red Cross volunteer service. Read the proclamation below to learn about this remarkable woman and how she has helped and inspired many people in many ways. 

State of Minnesota Proclamation for Vonnie Thomas

Whereas, the American Red Cross depends on the power of volunteers to accomplish its mission of preventing and alleviating suffering; and

Whereas, Nurse Vonnie Thomas has generously volunteered thousands of hours in distinguished leadership service through the American Red Cross over the past 65 years; and

Whereas, she courageously cared for those hurt by more than 40 local, national and international disasters such as the 2012 tornadoes in Minneapolis, the September 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon, Hurricane Katrina and the 35-W Bridge Collapse; and

Whereas, she has served in many roles on a local, division and national level and is currently a member of the Minnesota Region volunteer leadership team and Disaster Health Services lead and a Staff Wellness Consultant for 13 states;  and

Whereas, she is an exceptional leader, innovator, medical professional, skilled instructor, and humanitarian and mentor, and is beloved by staff and volunteers alike; and

Whereas, she is a vibrant, engaged and active volunteer leading a statewide effort to build Integrated Care Teams in Minnesota to help families who’ve lost a loved one, and greatly contributed to the  development and implementation of the training materials; and

Whereas, her tremendous voluntary service has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest international honor awarded by the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent, which celebrates the contributions of nurses and nursing aides to the work of the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement;  and

Whereas, she finds inspiration in the words of the founder of the American Red Cross, Nurse Clara Barton: “You must never so much think as whether you like it or not, whether it is bearable or not; you must never think of anything except the need, and how to meet it.”; and

Whereas, she embodies the principles and spirit of the Red Cross and is a wonderful example of unselfish, humble and dedicated service, and an inspiration for us all;

Now, therefore, I, Mark Dayton, Governor of Minnesota, do hereby proclaim June 28, 2016 Vonnie Thomas Day in the State of Minnesota.

Volunteer Spotlight: Barb Page and Disaster Health Services

Teaching a CPR class,
Leading or supporting committee work,
Being on-call to assist with small disasters,
Helping in a shelter on larger disaster responses,
Reviewing health forms for the staff and volunteer workforce,
Speaking to nursing students about volunteer opportunities at the Red Cross…

Linked in photo small jpeg Barb PageThere are many ways for those in the medical field to share their time and talents with American Red Cross Humanitarian Services. One nurse doing just that is Barb Page. Barb is celebrating her five-year anniversary with the Red Cross and is nearing the end of her second year as Disaster Health Services (DHS) Lead for the Twin Cities Area Chapter. For Barb, volunteering as a nurse for the American Red Cross is about compassion and community.

As a DHS volunteer, Barb has enjoyed sharing her gift of compassion with clients when called upon to assist during disaster response.

Asked why nurses have always played such an important role for the Red Cross, Barb replied, “Everybody at the Red Cross has a lot of care and compassion, but I think it’s just innate for nurses, and that comes through in our work and is an important piece of recovery. We are a big part of getting people back on their feet.”

DHS volunteers are able to offer both practical assistance and emotional support to clients in their times of need. “When someone has lost everything or has been hurt because of a disaster, they need help in so many ways. They need help navigating how to get their life back together,” Barb explained. “In almost every disaster response, there is someone with medication or someone with medical needs who needs help.” With DHS volunteers like Barb standing at the ready to share not just her professional skills but also her caring spirit, the Red Cross is able to more completely meet the needs of clients.

As DHS Lead for the Twin Cities Area Chapter, Barb has enjoyed fostering a sense of community among the DHS volunteer team.

In the beginning of Barb’s tenure, Barb focused on understanding what interested and motivated different volunteers in order to best engage them in ways they would find satisfying. As Barb described, with the variety of activities there is to participate in at the Red Cross, “We need all kinds of people with all kinds of interests.” Barb’s inclusive message is that anyone can find a way to contribute at the Red Cross that will be fulfilling and that will fit his/her unique schedule and strengths.

BarbBarb is now focusing her time as Twin Cities Area DHS Lead on maintaining a mentorship program and four committees centered on sheltering, national deployment, welcoming new volunteers, and external recruitment and education. The mentorship program has helped more than a handful of new volunteer nurses become acquainted and comfortable with responding to local disasters over the past year. Choua Yang, Regional Recovery Program Support Specialist, explained the impact Barb is having locally: “She is a great leader for the DHS group. The mentorship program helps new volunteers navigate the Red Cross and brings them into the DHS community.”

In addition, the more recently established committees are creating new ways for DHS volunteers to get involved and get to know each other, all the while making the Red Cross well positioned and prepared to take action when called upon.

Thinking holistically, as nurses so often do, Barb stated, “You never know if the client you just helped is going to become a volunteer or a donor or help out at the next disaster. It’s a circle.”  The Red Cross community is a growing, more encompassing circle because of wonderful volunteers like Barb. Thank you, Barb!

Story by Kelly Clark, Volunteer Services, American Red Cross Minnesota Region. If you or someone you know would be interested in joining this compassionate community of Disaster Health Services volunteers in Minnesota, please contact Volunteer Services.

This year’s highest Red Cross nursing honor goes to…

Janice Springer (c) receives the Ann Magnussen Award from Gail McGovern (l) and Linda MacIntyre (r) during the American Red Cross National Awards and Recognition Dinner on February 18, 2015, in Washington D.C. Photo by Jason Colston/American Red Cross
Janice Springer (c) received the Ann Magnussen Award from Gail McGovern (l) and Linda MacIntyre (r) during the American Red Cross National Awards and Recognition Dinner on February 18, 2015, in Washington D.C. Photo by Jason Colston/American Red Cross

Each year the American Red Cross presents the Ann Magnussen Award to a Red Cross volunteer or employed registered nurse who has made an outstanding contribution to strengthening and improving Red Cross programs and services. This year, our very own Janice Springer received this great honor, which is the highest honor of nursing achievement in the American Red Cross, at the National Awards and Recognition Dinner on February 18, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

Janice Springer, DNP, PN, PHN, has worked with the American Red Cross for 12 years. Based in central Minnesota, Janice serves as the Disaster Health Services Advisor for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region. She is responsible for overseeing all health services activities, including sheltering, disaster mental health and disaster health. Additionally, Janice is a disaster volunteer with more than 20 regional and national deployments, and is the Public Health Consultant in the Red Cross Regional Nurse Network.

Janice is actively building regional disaster health services leadership. She supported Superstorm Sandy relief as a liaison among the Red Cross, the FEMA Disability Office, local community partners and the shelters. She has been instrumental in promoting the Disaster Health and Sheltering Course for nursing students, which will build capacity in regions and chapters and provide nursing students with an opportunity to assist during disasters. She also teaches numerous courses at the chapters.

Janice’s background also includes research in disaster shelters, and she completed her doctoral study in Public Health Nursing: Meeting Access and Functional Needs in Congregate Care Shelters in Disasters. After recognizing that her initial plan, developed with multiple federal partners, did not meet the needs of shelter clients and staff during pilot studies of disaster relief operations, she reconvened the federal interagency group to develop the current Red Cross shelter intake process to identify the needs of clients with access and functional needs. Her approach has been adopted by Disaster Cycle Services and is an integral part of the new Shelter Prototype Project.

To learn more about the American Red Cross, click here

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