Monday, January 11, 2016

Red Cross Nurses: Then and Now - Northeast Tennessee

by Red Cross Volunteer Jane Harris

Nurses have been a part of the American Red Cross since it was founded. Often Clara Barton, the first leader of the Red Cross in the US, is thought to have been a nurse.  She was not a nurse, but did care for many during the Civil War.  Red Cross nurses were, however, early volunteer and employee leaders in the organization. Nurses have maintained an important and continuing role in the work of the American Red Cross across the US. Two examples of that leadership follow:

Christine Triebe

Christine Baldwin Triebe (Chris) was born in England in 1904. In 1907 she came to America with her parents who settled in Johnson City, TN. She received her basic education in Johnson City Schools and the State Teacher’s College (which became ETSU).  She became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1914 and graduated in 1926 from the Lankenau School of Nursing in Philadelphia.

Chris returned to Johnson City and assumed the position of night supervision at the Appalachian Hospital. In 1927, Christine came to Kingsport to become the Director of Nursing at the Marsh Clinic and Hospital Training School.  She held that position until 1931 at which time the school voluntarily closed because it was too small to give adequate training to its students, according to the newer concepts for nursing education that were being developed in Tennessee. She married Edwin J. Triebe and made Kingsport her permanent home. She was an active volunteer nurse making a significant impact on health and professional nursing issues in Kingsport during the early to mid 1900s.

•    At the Red Cross she served as Nursing Service Chairman and as a Board member, as trainer for Home Nursing Instructors across East Tennessee, as first instructor of Red Cross Nurses Aides for East Tennessee, and Red Cross First Aid and Home Nursing Instructor for over 20 years.  One interesting aspect of her Red Cross work was conducting a survey to determine the needs for Visiting Nurse Services in Kingsport. The Visiting Nurse Service was an American Red Cross program that was a precursor of the United States Public Health Service. 
•    She was instrumental in recruitment of many nurses to volunteer with the local Red Cross. 
•    During the 1950’s when Civil Defense preparations were prominent across the country.  Chris organized Home Nursing courses for all segments of the Kingsport community.
•    She was active in the Parent Teachers Organization – as chairman of the Kingsport PTA Health Council  she was responsible for a dental program and getting raincoats for the school safety patrol
•    One of the lasting impacts of Chris’ community networking was beginning the Practical Nurse training Program in Kingsport.  She brought together leaders to initiate the program, and then served as chairman of the Practical Nurse Committee of the Auxiliary at Holston Valley Hospital rendering guidance to the instructors and students.
•    She rendered many hours of service in the well-baby clinics sponsored at the hospital
•    She was active in the Girl Scouts- training 1000 Girl Scouts in Red Cross Home Nursing and Child Care
•    She conducted investigations among needy families to determine eligibility for medical and surgical care sponsored by the Wednesday Club
•    She instituted the first “Adult Education School” which taught the three R’s and the Red Cross Home Nursing to many women in the community
•    She founded the Sullivan County Health Workers Group during WWII. Originally composed of members of Health Department, Office Nurses, Industrial Nurses, Lay leaders and physicians. This organization later became the Industrial Nurses Section of District V, Tennessee Nurses Association. She served in many local and state roles in the Tennessee State Nurses Association.

When the citizens of Kingsport needed assistance with solving community problems they instinctively turned to “Chris Triebe”. Her involvement with the Red Cross and other organizations enabled her to direct their thinking and attention to appropriate groups to help them.  Her ability to network and share her knowledge of health care was definitely an asset to Kingsport and the Red Cross.

Carolyn Doerfert

More than 50 years after Christine Triebe shared her nursing skills in Kingsport many nurses have followed in her footsteps and served in numerous ways. One example is Carolyn Doerfert, who networks and volunteers in different but similar ways for the American Red Cross.

As much as our society changes – the Red Cross values and commitment to help remains the same. 
Carolyn Doerfert uses her nursing and mental health knowledge often for the Red Cross.  She may be preparing materials for an upcoming class or presentation or conferring about a current disaster case with other volunteers and staff.  If she is not at the Chapter House she is online or on the phone taking care of the health services details for someone in need.

Carolyn loves sharing her professional skills with the Red Cross and has been doing so for many years.  She graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in psychology. She married her husband Gunther and came to the Kingsport area when her husband was transferred here from Eastman Kodak in Rochester.  Kingsport was not unknown as her father had often visited here as a patent attorney.  Soon after settling in Kingsport, she attended ETSU where she received an Associate Degree in Nursing. She then began a career in psychiatric nursing at Indian Path Pavilion.

One day at a business dinner, Carolyn met a gentleman from Nashville whose experiences as a Red Cross Disaster volunteer intrigued her.  A call to the local Red Cross office and discussion with Jane Harris and Glenda Bobalik led her to what would become very much a “win-win” association for both Carolyn and the American Red Cross.  She took basic disaster training, health services and mental health services classes and accepted her first assignment in 1998 – Hurricane George in Puerto Rico. She was hooked!

Carolyn has no idea how many disasters she has served on - too many to count she says – locally in northeast TN, across TN, or in states from west to east and north to south. Wildfires, floods, hurricanes, airline crashes and tornadoes are among the many disaster assignments she has accepted.  While most often Carolyn works in Mental Health or Health Services, she has also accepted assignments in Casework and Staff Health.  Carolyn loves feeling she has helped people in a time of great need, enjoys working with volunteers who share the same values, appreciates the high standards of our organization and loves continuing to learn.   Carolyn is always learning from those she works with; as well as formally by completing certifications in Mental Health Nursing from American Nurses Association and National Disaster Nursing from St. Louis University.

Not only does Carolyn enjoy learning, she loves sharing her knowledge and love of Red Cross disaster with others. She has trained not only many of our current volunteer nurses in northeast TN, but others across TN and in many other states. She stays in touch with many of the individuals she trains and is a marvelous mentor and support for nurses during their first disaster assignments.

Carolyn is a good recruiter and trainer of volunteers, and helps network with other organizations in addition to the Red Cross.  A few of the groups she has worked with recently include the TN Department of Health, the Prison System, and Indian Tribes.  The bridges she has built and is building with these and many other groups help the Red Cross prepare for a better response in time of disasters.

To join the Red Cross as a nurse or other volunteer contact one of the local offices of the American Red Cross – in Johnson City, Kingsport, Morristown, or Greeneville. 

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