Red Cross Nurses in Action

by Dave Wagner, Public Affairs Volunteer

May 6-12 is National Nurses Week, and the American Red Cross is pleased to highlight the vital role our nurses play in helping to achieve our humanitarian mission.

In the spring of 2019, Nadine Frankel found herself at a Red Cross shelter in Little Rock, Arkansas, volunteering as the nurses’ supervisor. As the flood waters began to recede, she was asked to join an outreach team that was heading out to assess health and safety needs in the small towns just north of the city.

“We crossed the river and stopped at a local fire station to get our bearings,” recalls Nadine. “The firefighters told us that the town of Dixie was one of the hardest hit. It took us a while, but we finally found the one road that led into that tiny town. Maybe a total of five square blocks, Dixie was an island unto itself, sandwiched in between the railyards and the Arkansas River. It was different than anything I had ever seen in California.

“When they saw our Red Cross vests, they knew that help had arrived.”

“The flood waters had reached almost every street in Dixie. I remember the snakes, the vermin, the bad water – the mold was already starting to grow on some of the homes. But I also remember how happy the residents were to see us. I think when they saw our Red Cross vests, they knew that help had arrived.”

The first time Nadine ever saw a Red Cross vest was when her own house burned down in 2002. She remembers standing out in the street watching the flames shooting from her windows, dodging the firefighters with their hoses trying to save what they could, and just feeling completely overwhelmed and lost.

“A woman wearing a Red Cross vest put a blanket over my shoulders, and suddenly I started to feel a little bit hopeful. I was single mom and had just lost everything I owned. But the Red Cross shows up, helps me find a safe place for the night, gives me a little cash to get a new outfit and a toothbrush, some vouchers for a few meals. They really gave me a connection.”

Working in healthcare all her adult life, Nadine started as a nurse’s aide, then earned her degree and went into critical care. For twenty years you could find her dispensing care to the ill and injured in the CCU and ICU at St John’s and UCLA hospitals. Later, Nadine moved into elder care, managing an assisted living facility and a hospice program. “Coming from critical care where its complicated, hospice is low tech but very rewarding,” she muses. “It’s a privilege to help people go peacefully and help their families in a very stressful time.”

Thank you Nadine Frankel – Red Cross nurse and so much more!

As soon as she retired, Nadine became a Red Cross volunteer. She says that she wanted to continue using the skills she had spent a lifetime learning. She always liked working with a team and feels that on the Red Cross team, everyone is working towards the same goal.

Nadine has worked the nurse’s station in Red Cross shelters for the Thomas and Woolsey Fires near home, and the Ferguson Fire in Central California. She has also volunteered for blue sky events like the “Ride for the Red” and the “Veterans Stand Down.”

“At the Stand Down, mostly homeless vets are invited in to see doctors and nurses, dentists, mental health and even barbers – healthcare, housing, whatever their needs. At the Red Cross we judge everyone by the same standards, whether from a family home or homeless. We do whatever we have to do to help the person right now, and into the future.”

Waiting out the COVID-19 quarantine, Nadine is staying home just like everyone else these days. But she is looking forward to deploying again should the need arise. “Working in a Red Cross shelter just jives with my skills and personality,” she said. “I’d deploy to a place like Arkansas again in a heartbeat. The people themselves, the southern hospitality – it was amazing. Everyone wants to feed you – and everything comes fried and with gravy!”


Volunteers like Nadine Frankel carry out 90% of the humanitarian work of the Red Cross. Our work is only possible because of people like Nadine – and people like you. To discover the volunteer role that’s right for you, click here and join us today!

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