206944 Public health nurses in American Red Cross flood relief, 1909-1940

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 9:30 AM

Janna L. Dieckmann, PhD RN , School of Nursing, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Public health nurses' contributions to recent flood relief have heightened interest in the historical background for nursing roles during disasters. This paper's objective is to analyze the roles and impact of public health nurses on disaster response and recovery during floods. The historical research method is employed to analyze primary archival sources as well as secondary materials, including books, professional journal and newspaper articles, and photographs, that address the American Red Cross, the Red Cross Nursing Service (begun in 1909), and nursing participation and interventions during flood disasters. As a case study to delineate larger themes, a primary focus is on flood response/recovery in the Ohio-Mississippi River Valley between 1909 and 1940. For example, centralized disaster planning enabled the new Red Cross Nursing Service to respond more promptly and effectively to the 1913 Ohio Valley flood. Nurses were initially deployed from the nearest local committee in Cincinnati, with prompt regional response. Eventually 230 nurses staffed emergency hospitals, first aid centers, and shelters, but also conducted outreach and environmental assessments, prevented disease, and delivered relief supplies. By late 1920s, 40,000 American nurses were available for Red Cross disaster relief. Although deployment of Red Cross nursing leadership for major disasters became more centralized and more coordinated, the 1937 Ohio-Mississippi Valley flood response included nurses from Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, local health departments, and visiting nurse agencies. In conclusion, contemporary nursing implications include centralized disaster planning and local response, national registration of volunteers, and the broadest possible disaster roles for public health nurses.

Learning Objectives:
1. Explain the disaster response and recovery roles of the Red Cross Nursing Service between 1909 and 1940. 2. Compare flood response and recovery roles of public health nurses affiliated with the Red Cross Nursing Service between 1909 and 1940, to 21st century public health nursing roles in disaster.

Keywords: Disasters, History

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: My research is in the history of public health nursing. I have advanced education and training in public health nursing and in the history of public health nursing. I have presented previously at many national meetings on the history of public health nursing.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.