Inspired by American Red Cross founder, local nursing students help meet volunteer need

By Christy Peters, External Communications Manager, Northern Ohio Biomedical Services

October 30. 2020- During the Civil War, Clara Barton, a nurse and founder of the American Red Cross, risked her life to bring supplies and support to soldiers in the field. Today, inspired by her legacy, nursing students from colleges and universities throughout Northern Ohio are partnering with the Red Cross to meet the urgent need for volunteers in their communities.

Dr. Mariann Harding

Dr. Mariann Harding, professor of nursing at Kent State University,
Tuscarawas Campus, is coordinator for the Academic Service Leadership (ASL) in Northern Ohio. Dr. Harding teaches first year nursing students and current nurses returning to school for their bachelor’s degree. The ASL program provides students opportunities to volunteer in their community while earning their degrees. Approximately 100 students are participating from Kent State University (Kent and Tuscarawas campuses), Case Western Reserve University and the University of Akron.

Last year, students taught hands-only CPR in the community. With changes brought about the COVID-19 pandemic, that program is not available. COVID-19 has also caused many older blood drive volunteers to pause their service with the Red Cross. The ASL students have filled a much-needed role as blood drive ambassadors at blood drives, welcoming and screening donors and assisting at registration. According to Dr. Harding, a partnership with the Red Cross seemed like a natural fit. “I believe to have a successful, engaging volunteer experience, matching interest and need is important. Clara Barton, a nurse, was the founder of the Red Cross, and providing care, including nursing care, remains an important part of the Red Cross mission,” said Dr. Harding. “With all the service lines and opportunities for volunteerism, I felt confident that there was a need we could meet.”

Students participating in the program have reported having a great experience. Many have remarked that they have been surprised by how warm blood donors have been, encouraging them in their studies and thanking them for volunteering. Dr. Harding notes that many students have shared with her that they feel the work they are doing is worthwhile and plan to continue to volunteer when they have time off from school.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the need for Red Cross volunteers remains high. In addition to blood drive ambassadors, individuals are needed to help respond to disasters both locally and across the country, as an unprecedented number of disasters have required an ongoing response from the Red Cross. “Everyone has something to offer the Red Cross – and the Red Cross has an opportunity – and a need for you,” said Dr. Harding. “Just reach out. All you need is a desire to help others.” To learn more or to sign up to volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 1-800-RED CROSS.