Retired nurse trains Red Cross volunteers to help in disasters

EVERETT — Retired nurse Yvonne Smith, 54, volunteers with the American Red Cross.

She started a program there to include student nurses from the University of Washington in disaster-response programs. The students have worked recent local incidents including the 2013 Hodges Building fire in downtown Everett and the Oso mudslide.

“And we’re also looking for other ways to involve student nurses from other areas, other colleges as well,” regional executive director Chuck Morrison said. “(Smith) has done a great job of sharing with them our mission, of showing them how best to serve people within our mission.”

Red Cross nurses respond to many kinds of emergencies, Morrison said. They tend to the medical needs of clients, and also keep an eye on the other volunteers.

Smith grew up in an Air Force family and always wanted to be a nurse, she said. Before retiring, she worked for Swedish hospitals in Seattle and Edmonds, including intensive care and oncology. She kept her nursing license active for her volunteer work.

In the Red Cross, she helps train disaster health service volunteers, she said.

“It’s more community health nursing. You’re working with lots of different agencies and seeing what the clients’ needs are and using the community to help take care of the clients,” she said. “It’s never going to be one agency that can do everything for somebody. It’s really everybody pulling together, and the nurse has to do that with medical needs.”

Some volunteers like to teach emergency-preparedness classes in the community. Some like to work with other agencies and build partnerships, she said.

They also train nurses to work in emergency shelters.

After fires, Red Cross volunteer nurses help the victims get replacements for prescriptions, glasses, and durable medical equipment such as walkers and wheelchairs, she said.

Smith also still is helping those displaced by the Oso mudslide.

She lives in Edmonds with her husband, Ken.

For information about volunteering with the Red Cross in Snohomish County, call 425-252-4103.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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