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Philanthropies Help Student Nurses Gain Experience in Patient Care

February 2013

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are currently more than 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the United States. With so many philanthropies to choose from, there is a unique opportunity for people across the nation to volunteer with organizations they are passionate for and give back to their communities. Student nurses in particular can help nurture their growing set of nursing skills while volunteering their time to help those in need.

That’s why Emily Kraemer, a senior at the University of Kentucky College of Nursing in Lexington, Ky., chose to participate in the University of Kentucky’s largest philanthropy, DanceBlue, a 24-hour no sleep, no sitting, dance marathon fundraising event that benefits patients at the DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Hematology & Oncology Clinic. Kraemer will be dancing for 24-hours straight alongside 150 of her fellow nursing school classmates at the end of February.

According to Kraemer, who also works as a nursing care technician at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center, DanceBlue helps her feel a greater understanding for what the patients and their families are going through. “In the classroom and in our clinical rounds, we learn about the difficulties that pediatric hematology and oncology patients go through, so when you are given a chance to give back in a small way, you jump at it,” she said. “DanceBlue celebrates patients and their families, and I can speak for a lot of the nursing students in saying that we just want to be a part of that celebration.”

Student nurses may also find it is helpful to volunteer with a non-profit organization that offers opportunities specific to their intended career path, such as through the American Red Cross. For more than 50 years, the Red Cross has worked with student nurses and nursing faculty to help students develop basic leadership skills, provide meaningful services and help prepare for, prevent and respond to disaster emergencies.

“There are several opportunities for student nurses within the Red Cross, including the Red Cross Disaster Health and Sheltering two-part education course,” said Cheryl Schmidt, Ph.D., RN, CNE, ANEF, FAAN, Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Nursing in Little Rock, Ark., and Subject Matter Expert for Nursing Education for the Red Cross.

Schmidt, who helped develop the disaster course, said it was designed specifically to educate nursing students about volunteering for disaster relief operations, especially in the shelter environment. The course is now taught in numerous nursing schools across the country, and has helped to better prepare student nurses to help with disaster situations.

“This course is a great learning opportunity for students, as they take on the roles and responsibilities of a Disaster and Health Services Volunteer, which helps them in their overall nursing education,” said Schmidt. “After Hurricane Katrina, we had a huge influx of student nurses that were trained and helped support those who had evacuated, and a lot of them wanted to stay even after their duties had ended. We’ve seen that once students get involved, they stay involved,” said Schmidt.

For more information about the University of Kentucky’s DanceBlue Marathon, visit www.danceblue.org.

To find out more about volunteer and training opportunities for student nurses with the American Red Cross, visit www.redcross.org.

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