Assistant Professor of Nursing Kathleen Eid-Heberle, M.S.N., served in two American Red Cross roles at the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C.
She was the nurse responsible for the well-being of all the event’s Red Cross volunteers (more than 100) and paid staff. “The night before the inauguration volunteers and staff spent the night at the American Red Cross Headquarters in D.C., so we could get up at 3:30 a.m. and report to our assigned positions. Throughout the night and day, I was kept abreast of volunteers who were injured or became ill,” she said. “Secondly, as a result of my Red Cross experience, I was asked to serve as the American Red Cross nurse liaison at the Health Emergency Coordination Center (HECC) in Washington, D.C. My responsibilities included working in collaboration with our federal, regional and local partners to ensure the health needs of people on The Mall were met, i.e. first aid tents, hospitals, etc. If an incident had occurred, I would have coordinated with our partners and recruited Red Cross nurses to assist with the response efforts by providing patient assessment, care, referrals, supportive counseling, etc.
“The HECC, where I was stationed, monitored all of the activities occurring in the 35 medical/ first aid tents set up on and around the National Mall. In addition to monitoring the health status of all the visitors I, as mentioned before, was responsible for the Red Cross volunteers. I did receive a few calls about volunteers feeling ill and, in consultation with the volunteers, made the determination as to whether they went home, to the hospital or could remain volunteering.”
Luckily, the inauguration was uneventful, in relation to Eid-Heberle’s Red Cross specialization: disaster services. Although she did note that the energy quickly changed from being somewhat relaxed, to on alert, when reports of D.C. rioting started coming in on inauguration day. However, the Red Cross did not need to swing into action. She also worked President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, where she was responsible for the safety and well-being of all American Red Cross volunteers (more than 100). “As it was very cold, I asked them to frequently check in with me so I could ensure that there was no evidence of hypothermia.”
The American Red Cross attends inaugurations, just in case it’s needed.
“The hope is always that nothing will happen at these large gatherings,” Eid-Heberle said. “However, in the world in which we live today, the Red Cross and other response agencies must be ready for anything and everything, from people developing blisters to an act of terrorism.”
Eid-Heberle has been an American Red Cross volunteer since 1984, when she was a sophomore nursing student. She volunteered with blood services through 1986 and then in community services through 1989, when she shifted her attention to disaster services after experiencing a 7.0-magnitude earthquake while living in Berkeley, California. She volunteered at an Oakland shelter following the quake. “Since then I have responded to local, regional and national disasters helping individuals, families and communities recover from disasters,” she said. “As a Red Cross volunteer nurse I have assumed many leadership roles from the local level, i.e., lead nurse for the National Capital Region, to the national level, i.e., member of the American Red Cross National Nursing Committee.” She volunteers with the organization about 10-15 hours a month, or more, if disaster response is needed.
Interestingly, nursing or Red Cross volunteerism weren’t what she anticipated for her future as a teen. She grew up in Switzerland, just 1.5 miles away from the headquarters of the International Red Cross, and never really gave it a thought. When she planned to go to college, her parents didn’t back several of her ideas about what she planned to study, but they would pay for her to study nursing. She smiled as she said, “So, here I am, 30 years later.”
Disaster services also drew her to teaching at Shenandoah. When she learned, soon after moving to the area (she lives in Loudoun County) that the Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing requires its students to take courses in emergency preparedness, she said to herself, “That’s where I want to be.”
She now teaches those courses – N415: Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Nursing (for undergraduates) and N715: Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Management – Systems Focus (for graduate students). Undergraduate nursing students are required to complete two Red Cross online modules about the roles and responsibilities of Red Cross nurses who respond to disasters, noted Eid-Heberle, who teaches at both the Winchester campus and Northern Virginia Campus–Scholar Plaza.
“The experience and knowledge that I gain from my volunteer work with the American Red Cross is transposed into my classes. I incorporate real-life scenarios into my courses through case studies and simulations. I also invite students to participate in local- or state-run drills, bridging content with practice. Partnering with the local American Red Cross chapter provides the students with the opportunity to participate in a variety of drills and interact with key people orchestrating a response effort. This approach enables students to gain disaster preparedness experience and for the American Red Cross to recruit future volunteer nurses.”
American Red Cross nurses’ willingness and ability to respond to disasters and care for evacuees in shelters is the topic of Eid-Heberle’s doctoral studies (Ph.D.) at Catholic University. Eid-Heberle’s background is in Emergency Room/Trauma and Intensive Care Unit nursing, which she performed for 22 years. She began teaching part time in 2007 and full time in 2008, at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and continues to maintain her patient contact through disaster work. She has been an instructor at Shenandoah University for four and a half years.