Alumna Answers the Call. Heads to Puerto Rico Following Hurricanes.
This was Smalley’s first deployment. She was nervous following the call, but she was anxious to help those in need. “I had no idea what to expect or what I would be asked to do. I did not know the conditions I was walking into.” A volunteer with FEMA Cleveland Clinic since 2008, she also volunteers with the Lake County Medical Reserve Core and could deploy to any local or federal disaster. “Volunteering has opened new opportunities for me. I was able to join the disaster team at the VA once they learned I did disaster relief at Cleveland Clinic.”
Smalley was encouraged to enroll in nursing school after caring for her ill father-in-law, and she identified Kent State University College of Nursing as her first choice school because of its reputation. A three-time nursing alumna, she credits her time at Kent for sparking her interest in volunteer work. “My clinical experiences, along with some of my instructors, encouraged me to volunteer. Being a nurse means your possibilities are endless. No matter what you want to do, find a way to do it. Kent State taught me that through its fantastic programs.”
Smalley, a psychiatric mental health nurse, worked with a team of social workers to treat nearly 5,000 veterans at 80 shelters, many without water and electricity. For fourteen straight days, her team worked long 12-hour shifts, surviving on rice, beans, and protein bars. Over the course of her two weeks in Puerto Rico, Smalley discovered her open mind and compassion to be the most important assistance she could offer her patients. “You can bring every nursing tool you have, but most of the time you do not need them, the people just want to talk about what happened.”
Smalley strongly encourages other nurses to answer the call to volunteer as she does. “Contact your hospital and get on their Emergency Response Team. Contact the Red Cross or your county Medical Reserve Core. These organizations are hidden gems. Most people aren’t aware they exist until an emergency happens and their services are needed.”