Taking the lead in disasters

red cross

May 2012 brought interesting stories to inboxes at the College of Nursing. That’s when we solicited from alumni and other constituents their three words to describe Villanova Nursing for a video project for National Nurses’ Week.

Alumna Deborah Donahue Hayden ’90 BSN, of Garden City, New York submitted “Serving our communities” with a screen shot of her (seen above) from a YouTube video done by the American Red Cross (ARC) in her home state. However, the photo doesn’t tell the whole story. 

After her Villanova graduation, Debbie worked for eight years in pediatrics and neonatal ICU and then took time off to raise her four children with husband Tony '89 VSB whom she met through brother Dan ’89 A&S. In 2010, she decided to return to nursing and started by volunteering with the ARC. It was a baptism by fire…or more accurately wind and water.

“My Villanova Nursing leadership training kicked right back in as I was involved in three national disaster relief efforts in 2011,” notes Debbie, “I deployed to Memphis for flooding in May and then to Springfield, Mass. after the tornado in June. In August, I was the shelter manager of the largest shelter on Long Island for Hurricane Irene.”   

Debbie has recently taken on the role of co-lead of Disaster Health Services (DHS) in Nassau County, N.Y.  Because the ARC has changed many of their policies in recent years, shelters are now able to take clients with significant functional needs.  “We partner with all county services,” she says. “As a DHS lead I am responsible for supervision of volunteers, recruitment, communication and preparedness,” explains Debbie. “During a disaster we need to be in contact with the Public Health Department and local hospitals.” Qualified nurses are needed to assist. “Here in Nassau County we have 20 schools with onsite storage for disaster sheltering supplies.  They were all activated for Hurricane Irene, but we had precious few nurses to staff them,” she recalls.

Debbie is working with area resources to educate nurses, including a local college in order to implement the new "Red Cross Disaster Health and Sheltering" course launched nationally in March 2012.  This introductory awareness course orients pre-licensure nursing students to the roles and responsibilities of a DHS volunteer. Debbie will assist by working through actual mass care case studies and sharing personal sheltering experiences.

super bowl
The Donahue sisters at the 2011 Super Bowl in Arlington, Tex. From left to right Deborah Donahue Hayden ’90 BSN, Diane Donahue Philbin, ’87 BSN, and Donna Donahue Powell, A&S '86.

Debbie predicts in the near future she will be just as busy with the many volunteer opportunities in her community, not just the Red Cross but school and church commitments as well.  Her alma mater is always part of her. Debbie comes from a family of Villanovans. Besides her brother and husband, her sister Donna Donahue Powell, A&S '86, is married to classmate Mark. Sister Diane Donahue Philbin, ’87 BSN is a former staff nurse who practiced in both hospitals and prisons in five states as she relocated with husband Joe on the road to his becoming the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. They met at Villanova when she was a nurse for the football camp on campus which he was coaching.

Debbie’s love for Villanova is matched by her enjoyment of her new professional home. “I am passionate about the Red Cross mission and am committed to recruiting the next generation of Red Cross nurses,” says Debbie. “There is a great need for RN volunteers now.  It's a great place to be!”