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Nurses share talents by volunteering to serve others

Throughout 2015, Nurse.com is saluting the dedication and compassion of nurses who volunteer to serve others. During National Nurses Week, we introduce you to some nurses in the region who demonstrate the power of volunteerism through their efforts. These nurses share how they started, the rewards they receive and what inspires them to continue.

Mary Vecchio, MSN, RN, APNC, OCN, CTTS, Advanced practice nurse, family risk assessment program, Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center, Flemington, N.J.

Volunteer organization: American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

ACS CAN is the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage lawmakers and candidates to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority.

Online: ACSCAN.org

How did you get involved?

I have been a volunteer with the American Cancer Society since 1997, when I registered as a team captain for my first Relay for Life. I learned about ACS CAN in 2008 and was asked to represent New Jersey District 7 as an Ambassador Constituent Team lead.

What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer work?

I love the variety of teachable moments when it comes to the work of advocacy. I have walked the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C., to meet with my legislative representatives and participated in numerous community education programs to keep cancer issues a top priority.

What inspires you to continue volunteering?

St. Francis states “for it is in giving that we receive.” I have been blessed in so many aspects of my life that I feel the need to pay it forward. We all have the ability to make our community a better place, we just need to recognize the opportunity and become engaged.

Susan Eisenberg, RN, Employee health manager, New York Eye & Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, Manhattan

Volunteer organization: Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention program

SAVI is a program dedicated to validating, healing and empowering survivors and their supporters to lead safe, healthy lives through advocacy, free and confidential counseling, and public education.

Online: MountSinai.org, search “SAVI program”

How did you get involved?

While taking the Citizens Police Academy course in spring 2012, I was introduced to this program through a special victims unit detective. I was accepted to their comprehensive 40-plus hour March 2013 orientation class.

What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer work?

I am on call one to two times per month from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. for one or more hospitals in the program. It is extremely rewarding being an advocate for anyone who presents as a victim but leaves a survivor because I am able to support that person through an exhausting, and often scary, ED process after going through an unspeakable experience.

What inspires you to continue volunteering?

Sexual abuse and/or domestic violence can be devastating. During our orientation class, we heard from previous survivors who have become advocates. Their strength inspires me every day. It helps me wake up in the middle of the night and get dressed to be with the next survivor. It’s a warm feeling at the end of the case to hear a thank you.

Robin Rawlins, ANP-BC, OCN, Inpatient nurse practitioner, radiation oncology, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Manhattan

Robin Rawlins, ANP-BC

Volunteer organization: Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City; BBBS/MSKCC workplace mentoring program

Online: BigsNYC.org

How did you get involved?

I became involved when the opportunity was offered to staff at Memorial Sloan Kettering. I was familiar with the organization’s work and was excited to be a part of it. I was happy to see my employer’s commitment to making an opportunity like this possible through the hospital network.

What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer work?

My “Little” is wonderful. I have conversations with her and the other Littles about their lives and experiences. I find that I am as enriched by them as I hope they are by me and the other Bigs. The other Bigs and I share a commitment to being a positive force in the lives of these young people but often are in awe of our Littles, who give us a window into their worlds.

What inspires

you to continue volunteering?

I leave each session with confidence about the future. The Littles have shown me that young people are curious, real and hopeful for the future, and they have something, at times pretty profound, to say and contribute. They just need a willing ear and heart to listen.

Samantha Kilroe, BSN, RN, Staff nurse, The Valley Hospital, Ridgewood, N.J.

Volunteer organization: Saddle Brook (N.J.) Volunteer Ambulance Corps

The corps provides free, professional emergency medical care. It operates three fully equipped ambulances and one fire rehabilitation ambulance to aid during fire calls.

Samantha Kilroe, RN

Online: Facebook.com/SaddlebrookVAC

How did you get involved?

My first experience was in high school. I had always had a strong interest in the medical field and knew a friend, now my fiancé, who volunteered with the corps.

What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer work?

Every call you respond to is a chance to make a difference in the lives of another person and family. The most rewarding experience I have had as a volunteer was the day I helped to save a life. I reflect on that day often, and it reminds me why I love the paths I have chosen — volunteering as an EMT and working professionally as a nurse.

What inspires you to continue volunteering?

I can provide life-saving medical care, offer education to my community, or even be a hand to hold in a terrifying situation. The ambulance corps has become part of my family. I could not imagine my life without it.

Michael Angelo Cultura, BSN, RN, Cardiac OR nurse, NYU Langone Medical Center, Manhattan

Volunteer organization: Operation Smile

This is an international children’s medical charity that performs safe, effective cleft lip and cleft palate surgery and delivers postoperative and ongoing medical therapies to children in low- and middle-income countries.

Online: OperationSmile.org

How did you get involved?

I started to volunteer when I was still fresh from nursing school. I initially joined as a local OR nurse volunteer in Cebu City, Philippines. Since I immigrated to New York, I have volunteered twice for international missions — first in China, and second, last year, a mega mission in the Philipp

ines where we performed operations in five major cities simultaneously.

What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer work?

Volunteering for me is very addictive. It sounds cliché, but the change you bring to every mission is going to impact the person’s life forever. Professionally, you can also learn from the local volunteers as you exchange experiences and different practices in your field. And, you get to appreciate other cultures.

What inspires you to continue volunteering?

Being part of an organization that is devoted to bringing smiles to a lot of people with cleft lip/palate, especially those who are less fortunate, is what drives me to be involved in more missions. The opportunity given to these young children is a chance for a new life. And the story you bring back home is worth sharing.

Fabienne Gaillard Ulysse, DNP, RN, ANP, AOCNP, Director of nursing/Nurse practitioner, Ambulatory Oncology Center, Lutheran Medical Center, Brooklyn

Volunteer organization: Compassionate Health Ministries

It is a nonprofit, faith-based organization striving to provide free, safe and quality healthcare to underserved people in Haiti.

Fabienne Gaillard Ulysse, RN

Online: Facebook.com/cohemi1

How did you get involved?

It was after multiple medical missions to Haiti as a church group that we confirmed the need to create an organization that would concentrate on the delivery of quality healthcare to underserved families there.

What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer work?

The most rewarding parts are being able to see the smile on a young girl’s face when you give her a pair of shoes and socks to wear to school, the endless thank yous I receive when I give a young boy a notebook and pencil, and the joy and the hugs I get from a person who is unable to afford the medication when given free medicine for uncontrolled hypertension and diabetes.

What inspires you to continue volunteering?

The gratitude and appreciation displayed by the Haitian people. They are amazing. They will wait in line for more than five hours if needed to get to see a practitioner and receive medication. They will travel miles if needed to receive healthcare. Since 2010, I have traveled to Haiti every year. I cannot see myself not going.

Christen Halley Hughes, BSN, RN, OCN, Ambulatory GI chemotherapy infusion nurse, Rockefeller Outpatient Pavilion, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Manhattan

Christen Halley Hughes, RN

Volunteer organization: New York Junior League, playground improvement project

Online: NYJL.org

How did you get involved?

I originally joined the Junior League in North Carolina to get more involved in the community and expand my network. When I relocated, I joined the New York City chapter to learn more about the city and add value to the community through their various volunteering projects.

What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer work?

I see firsthand the positive impact on the community. The people are so happy and grateful to once again have beautiful gardens and safe playgrounds where their children can freely play. It is truly a satisfying experience.

What inspires you to continue volunteering?

I’m inspired by improving the quality of life of others, and bringing joy to the community fuels my passion for volunteering. It is what helps me jump out of bed every day. I love the relationships and connections I’ve made through volunteering thus far, and I hope to continue to support this amazing community.

Karin Abbinante, MSN, RN, Staff nurse, NYU Langone Medical Center, Manhattan

Volunteer organization: American Red Cross and NYC Medical Reserve Corps

Karin Abbinante, RN

The Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. The group responds for disaster relief, and health and safety service to the armed forces, international relief and blood services. The New York State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Medical Reserve Corps enhances NYC’s emergency preparedness by ensuring a trained group of health professionals is ready to respond to health emergencies. The team supplements the work of NYC first responders, professional associations, universities and hospitals.

Online: RedCross.org and NYC.gov/MedicalReserveCorps

How did you get involved?

I wanted to offer assistance to my community after 9/11 and joined MRC. Sept. 11 identified a need for a mechanism to better utilize volunteer medical and public health professionals. I recently joined the Red Cross to enhance and diversify my volunteer experience. Both organizations provide ongoing classes and disaster training.

What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer work?

Being involved in disaster relief to the NYC community. I worked full-time in shelters during Superstorm Sandy, assisting displaced Queens residents. Volunteering during a disaster is both challenging and rewarding. It was very humbling to see individuals coming in with only the clothes on their backs.

What inspires you to continue volunteering?

The privilege of giving back to my community. Volunteering has allowed me to truly experience helping another human being unconditionally. Volunteering has taught me to be more patient, flexible and compassionate in my professional and personal lives. I hope to pass along these attributes to my children and grandchildren.

Tom Clegg is a freelance writer.

SHARE YOUR STORIES of volunteer efforts by writing to [email protected] or [email protected]

By | 2015-04-27T19:17:33-04:00 April 28th, 2015|Categories: New York/New Jersey Metro|0 Comments

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