The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
“It is so compelling when one sees the need,” said Charlotte Bradsher as she recalls her husband admonishing her to “remember, that this [her Red Cross work] is a volunteer job.” Being compelled to respond to other’s needs is an on-target maxim for Charlotte and a characteristic that led to her selection as Mid-South Red Cross Volunteer of the Month for August 2017.
Charlotte puts her nursing experience and compassion together to serve in one of the most challenging Red Cross volunteer positions, Disaster Health Services. “Whether working with one family after a fire or helping a community recover, Charlotte provides personal attention to make sure that each individual’s health needs have been addressed. Her leadership is vital to our chapter’s health service response,” said Jeana Bailley, Disaster Services Manager for the Mid-South Red Cross.
In 1996, Charlotte was teaching nursing at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, when a tornado tore through a nearby community. After seeing first-hand the necessity of having well-trained disaster health personnel ready to respond when disasters strike, Charlotte decided to volunteer with the American Red Cross. In the intervening 21 years, she has continued to share her expertise to prepare for and respond to disasters both large and small.
Currently, Charlotte is deeply involved with teaching a disaster response clinical segment on disaster health services to nursing students at the University of Memphis. Each semester she brings a group of students to the Mid-South Red Cross where they train in a disaster shelter mock-up. She shares with them the role of the Red Cross in times of disaster, how to monitor and assist with disaster-staff wellness, and how to deal with the functional needs of vulnerable populations residing in Red Cross shelters. “The students seem to really enjoy doing the clinical. They like having an opportunity to do an interactive exercise where they can put their training into practice,” said Charlotte.
Charlotte is also an active national disaster responder. Her most recent deployment was to the Louisiana floods in August of last year where she worked as a Disaster Health Services Specialist in a large Red Cross shelter. Prior to that, she deployed to numerous national disasters, including those for Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav. In addition to serving as a Disaster Health Services Specialist, Charlotte has also served as a Red Cross Shelter Manager and a Pillowcase Project presenter, an emergency preparedness program for third through fifth graders.
“When I was growing up, the professional options for girls were either teaching or nursing. My sister pursued the teaching route, but I took the opposite course towards nursing,” Charlotte shared. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Akron.
As part of her practical work for her BSN degree, Charlotte was required to gain some practical experience, but she did not want to work in a hospital like most of her classmates. Instead, she polished her practical skills by working at a well-baby clinic in a local Public Health Department. This may not seem surprising today, but it had never been done before and was considered a pioneering achievement at her university.
Charlotte went on to obtain a Masters Degree in nursing at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a Doctor of Public Health Nursing degree from the University of Tennessee. For her doctorate in Public Health Nursing, Charlotte did outcomes research on the impact of the Red Cross Measles Initiative (MI), a mass immunization campaign, in Kenya. During the study, she had the opportunity to work with Dr. Mark Grabowsky, a global expert on disease and child health, who, at the time, was on loan to the Red Cross from the U.S. Center for Disease Control. She and her colleagues concluded that the goals of the immunization campaign were met with significant reductions of measles mortality and morbidity in the Kenya population.
“The success of the MI immunization program was the result of the commitment of expert international public health agencies in partnership with the Kenyan government. The strategies used for this successful public health activity can be applied to improve programs in other countries,” was the conclusion they shared in the journal Public Health Nursing. An abstract of her report and link to the full journal article can be found at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1525-1446.2006.00604.x/full#references
Charlotte is also a member of the adjunct-nursing faculty at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she develops online courses for nurses.
In addition to Red Cross and academic pursuits, Charlotte has shared her nursing expertise during medical mission trips to Haiti and five such trips to Africa, primarily Kenya and Zambia. She recalls that people would walk for miles and miles to come to mass clinics where they could get medical assistance and otherwise expensive drugs for no charge. In Zambia, her team would sometimes see 800 people per day that needed treatment for malaria, dysentery, respiratory diseases, and other maladies. During her last trip to Africa in 2007, she played a key role in training physicians from Scotland to provide medical assistance for vulnerable people in the local population.
Charlotte met her husband while teaching at Harding University, and the two of them moved to Memphis where she quickly got involved as a volunteer with the Mid-South Red Cross. She has two grown children, a son and a daughter, from a previous marriage, and five grandchildren. This is in addition to being a step-grandmother to her husband’s five granddaughters. In what appears to be a very limited amount of spare time, Charlotte enjoys golfing and is active once a week in a golf league. Between family, Red Cross, teaching nursing, golf, and dedication to her church work, Charlotte leads a very busy and meaningful life.
Story Credit: Bob Wallace for the American Red Cross