Category Archives: Volunteers

Jul 3 2013

A New Nurse Aids Some of Those Who Lost So Much During Hurricane Sandy

Olivia Jackson is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) program. She graduated summa cum laude from Fairleigh Dickinson University's Accelerated Bachelor's Degree in Nursing program this past May. She has a BA in Biological Sciences from Rutgers University. She is currently pursuing a career in medical surgical nursing.


The Jersey Shore is open for business this summer, and I am proud to say that I played a small part if making that happen, and helping the community that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy last year.

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast, especially in New Jersey and New York. For our November volunteer project, I and several other NCIN scholars at Fairleigh Dickinson University devoted a Saturday to helping the citizens of Rockaway Beach, New York, where the storm was particularly strong.

Through online research on, I located a bus going to the Rockaways that needed more volunteers to help assemble and distribute care packages to the people affected by Hurricane Sandy. As our bus pulled into the Rockaways, the first thing we saw is what used to be a parking lot for beachgoers. It looked like a scene from an apocalyptic movie. Mounds of debris, most of which used to be the homes of Rockaway residents, extended across the horizon. I felt a deep sense of sadness and could not even imagine how devastated these people must feel having lost everything.

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Jul 5 2012

Human Capital News Roundup: The Affordable Care Act, aging at home, service-learning projects, and more

“Many people see the Supreme Court's ruling as a watershed moment in the history of health care. I have a slightly different view,” Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, writes in the Atlantic. “[Last week’s] decision cleared the way for states to go forward in implementing the law and ensuring that people don't die or go bankrupt for a lack of coverage. That will mean a lot of hard work from all parties: states, the federal government, individuals and the private sector. No doubt it was a historic day. But it's not yesterday that is going to define health care in this country. It's what we all do today, tomorrow and every day after.” Read Lavizzo-Mourey’s statement on the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act ruling.

Several media outlets spoke to Laura Brennaman, RN, MSN, CEN, a scholar at the RWJF Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative at the University of New Mexico, as she camped outside the Supreme Court to get a seat for the announcement of its ruling. Among them: the Washington Post, CNN’s Political Ticker blog, the Daily Beast, and Brennaman, who is an emergency department nurse from Fort Myers, Fla., was also present for the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the law in March. Read a post her Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative colleague, Lauri Lineweaver, MSN, RN, CCRN-CSC, wrote about the experience.

Other RWJF fellows and program directors were in the news to discuss the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act. RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumna Juliann Sebastian, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, was a guest on KVNO News to discuss how the Affordable Care Act will affect Nebraskans and the challenges associated with implementing the law. Judi Hilman, an RWJF Community Health Leader and executive director of the Utah Health Policy Project, spoke to the Salt Lake Tribune. RWJF Health & Society Scholars program co-director Jo Ivey Boufford, MD, president of the New York Academy of Medicine, gave comments to The Fiscal Times.

Medical News Today reports on the “Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders” (CAPABLE) initiative, led by RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar Sarah Szanton, PhD, CRNP, MSN. It works to keep at-risk seniors who are on Medicare and Medicaid in their homes and improve their quality of life. Szanton’s project was recently awarded a $4 million Health Care Innovation Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Stephen Black, JD, MTS, a Community Health Leader, was the speaker at a Greater Shelby (Ala.) Chamber of Commerce luncheon, according to a story in the Shelby County Reporter. Black is founder and president of Impact Alabama, which develops and implements service-learning projects for college and graduate students, including an initiative that has provided free, technologically advanced vision screenings for more than 25,000 children in 60 counties throughout Alabama.

Apr 6 2012

Community Service: Reaching Out to Others to Learn More About Yourself

By Danielle Reade, BS, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) scholar at New Jersey’s Fairleigh Dickinson University, which was recently highlighted by NCIN as an exemplar of incorporating community service for scholars in the school’s accelerated degree program


I felt the pressure build as I began the one-year accelerated nursing program at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU). I was fearful and thought, “How could I make it through this program in one piece?” As a recipient of an NCIN scholarship, this honor also brought a responsibility to positively represent the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through my volunteer work in the community. I wondered, “How would I be able to add this responsibility to my academic commitments?”

That fear is now a thing of the past. Over the last seven months, my community service involvement has increased from only one activity per month to two or three. It has brought me closer to my classmates, enabling me to use team synergy to make a difference in the community while growing in my academic performance.

I feel helping the community and becoming a unit with my fellow classmates is an experience I will always take with me. In the nursing profession, it is so important to work together and help others who are in need. I consider one of the lessons learned was how to work together most effectively to find a volunteer option we were all interested in accomplishing, and ensuring the group effort makes the biggest impact.

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Mar 14 2012

March is Red Cross Month

By Sharon Stanley, PhD, RN, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Executive Nurse Fellow, and chief nurse for the American Red Cross


March is Red Cross Month. And at the American Red Cross, it’s a time to celebrate our work in communities across the country and around the globe, and to recognize how we depend on public support to help people in need. Every meal we serve to a family displaced by disaster, every emergency message we send to a member of the military and every unit of Red Cross blood we collect is made possible by the generosity of a donor.

People support the Red Cross by making a financial contribution, becoming a volunteer, taking a class or giving blood. The level of service the Red Cross provides with these generous gifts is staggering. The organization responds to nearly 70,000 disasters a year, for example, and educates more than 9 million people in first aid, water safety and other lifesaving skills.

March is also a time to celebrate the contributions thousands of nurses and other health care professionals make to this organization. Nurses are a part of everything that happens at the American Red Cross.

Nurse volunteers help the Red Cross support veterans, members of the military and their families; they volunteer at blood drives. They provide health screenings and information at Red Cross booths during countless community events. They serve on the Nursing and Caregiving Sub-Council of the Scientific Advisory Council, which advises the American Red Cross on the development and dissemination of critical information and training related to CPR, first aid, caregiving and safety.

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Feb 17 2012

Nursing Students Learn through Real-World Experience

By Laura Larsson, PhD, MPH, RN, is an assistant professor at the College of Nursing, Montana State University and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar (2010 – 2013)


What started as a place for nursing students to earn supplemental clinical hours toward their public health course has evolved into a wonderful community-academic partnership that has just celebrated its 5th anniversary.

As a nurse educator, my first thought when I decided to offer students the chance to gain extra hours at the food bank was how beneficial such a partnership would be for my students. They would get to work with families experiencing food scarcity, see a wider variety of community members than they did in the hospital setting, and gain first-hand experience with where the strengths and weaknesses are in the “safety net.”

I imagined projects where concepts from the community would converge with concepts from individual-level care, and the students would better understand that nursing cannot operate in a silo.

In the past five years, this project has been all of that and even more.

During the spring of 2008, two students started the Nurse’s Desk at our local food bank in Bozeman, Mont., holding hours every Friday afternoon. Sponsored by the local federally qualified health center, they offered blood pressure and casual blood glucose testing, and referral services to clients as they waited for their supply of food.

Throughout that spring, the students grew markedly in their appreciation for the diverse and challenging circumstances their clients faced. They did perform blood pressure and blood glucose checks, but mostly they listened. They heard stories that strained their catalogue of experience and met people whose willpower and resilience humbled them. The clients, the volunteers, and the students insisted the Nurse’s Desk continue.

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Sep 15 2011

Aiming for a 'Smoother Chaos'

Sharon Stanley, PhD, RN, a new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellow, the chief nurse for the American Red Cross, and a recently retired leader in the U.S. Army Reserves after 34 years of service, discusses the role nurses can play in disaster relief.


Human Capital Blog: Congratulations on your selection for the Executive Nurse Fellows (ENF) program. The news broke amidst earthquakes and hurricanes – not your easy season! But your work with the Red Cross is related to your plans for the fellowship. Tell us about that, please.

Sharon Stanley: It’s absolutely related. What I’d like to focus on with the fellowship is the role of nurses in disaster planning and relief at the American Red Cross. So it’s very timely! We rely greatly on nurses in disaster recovery. They’re really the “care” component of what we do. But it’s not just after the disaster strikes where nurses need to play a role. Our preparedness efforts go on all year, across the organization. We’re working to educate our various communities and lay the foundation for preparedness and recovery. Nurses are already involved in that, and I’m hoping that as a result of my work with the ENF program they’ll become even more fully integrated and take a bigger role in the leadership of our efforts.

One thing we’re doing already to help accomplish that is the addition of a new volunteer component to disaster response – the certified nursing assistant (CNA). Red Cross has been providing nurse assistant training for a while now. In disaster situations, when people are displaced, it’s important to have trained volunteers who can help care for people who live with access and functional needs at shelters. Those needs don’t go away in a disaster; if anything, those needs become more acute in such circumstances, in the midst of the chaos. So we’re ramping up our training for CNAs and, of course, that training is of use to the community not just in disaster circumstances or even just in preparation for disaster, but all year round.

HCB: Give us a sense of how you prepare for disasters.

Stanley: I think one of the biggest misconceptions about our work is that we pop up when hurricanes roll into town and then recede when the storm passes. In fact, we’re very busy making sure that needed resources are both available and in place before the storm hits, and we’re still there long after the winds stop blowing or the ground stops shaking.

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May 12 2011

RWJF's Hassmiller Aids Tornado Victims in Alabama

The Times of Trenton is reporting on the extraordinary work of Susan Hassmiller, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s senior adviser for nursing, who is in Alabama helping victims of the recent tornadoes. An American Red Cross volunteer for decades, Hassmiller is working with a team that includes caseworkers and mental health experts providing medical care and other support to some of those who were hardest hit.

Hassmiller has a long history of helping those affected by disasters, including victims of Hurricane Katrina, the Indian Ocean tsunami, and the 9/11 attacks in New York City. In 2009, the International Red Cross awarded her its Florence Nightingale Medal, nursing’s highest international honor.

Read Hassmiller’s blog on her work helping victims of the disaster.