Contact: Rene Abadie
Date: April 19, 2012
HAMMOND – Eight senior nursing students at Southeastern Louisiana University are partnering with the American Red Cross Club on campus to recruit and train volunteers to aid in future disaster relief efforts in the area.
The project is intended to create greater awareness of the shortage of nursing volunteers who are disaster-prepared and to recruit both faculty and students who will be ready to go into a community and provide care for others in times of a disaster, said team spokesman John Decaro Jr. of Slidell.
He said other, non-healthcare individuals are also being recruited and trained to assist the organization in disaster relief efforts.
Decaro and his fellow students selected the effort for their Capstone project, a community outreach research course required of all senior nursing students at Southeastern. Nursing Instructor Terry Compton is serving as their faculty mentor on the project.
"The students are well aware of what happens during and after disasters, such as some of the tropical storms and hurricanes we've experienced," Compton said. "Since the American Red Cross is so dependent upon volunteer assistance, the students wanted to make an impact by helping to increase the number of disaster-prepared volunteers who live and work in our region."
Decaro said the students elected to work with the American Red Cross in recognition of the lack of professional healthcare employees who volunteer in Louisiana, a disaster-prone area. Red Cross of Louisiana has only about 95 nursing volunteers on its rosters, making it difficult to operate many shelters in the region.
The students are recruiting fellow nursing students and members of the faculty to undergo the specialized training required of the American Red Cross.
"We've received a large response from the nursing students who are interested in becoming volunteers," said Aimee Arceneaux of Albany, who added that the volunteers will undergo training before the end of the semester.
Training consists of completing a one-hour online module and five hours of classroom instruction. Once prepared, volunteers can help by working in shelters, responding to house fires, teaching swimming lessons and other activities.
Some students recalled how disasters impacted their own lives.
"Having been affected by Hurricane Katrina, I wanted to give something back," said nursing student Tina Couch of Covington. "I wanted to be trained myself to assist during a disaster and to know that I am prepared if I have the chance to assist with relief efforts."
"This senior project has demonstrated for us that we can make a difference in our own communities," said student Ashley Galiano of Covington. "It is part of our professional role to reach out and get involved in the local community."
Tiffany Pizzitola of Covington said the experience of working with her fellow students on the group project was rewarding.
"It has been a great group project that will benefit the area," she said. "At any given time, we could be helping someone's friends or family in a time of need. We feel we are making a difference."
Other students participating in the project are Leila Guidry and Kelly Marino of Covington and Kelly Costello of Slidell.
Decaro said the American Red Cross of Southeast Louisiana serves more than 1.6 million people within 12 parishes and relies solely on volunteers and donations. Individuals interested in training to become a Red Cross volunteer can contact Decaro at email@example.com or Jonathan Hammett of the American Red Cross at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 225-456-5616 for more information.