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      Prepared to Serve

      Widener Honored for Supporting Nursing Faculty Member Who Responds to Disasters

      Cathleen Evans

      The National Disaster Medical System recently awarded Widener University a certificate of appreciation for supporting Cathleen Evans, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing.

      Cathleen Evans, an assistant professor in the Widener University School of Nursing, doesn’t only teach about disaster preparedness and response. She lives it in her role as a volunteer member of the NJ1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team within the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS).

      NDMS, a federally-coordinated healthcare system that responds following disasters and emergencies in the United States and its territories, recently awarded Widener a certificate of appreciation for the institutional support and flexibility afforded to Evans, who was on-call last year to serve those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

      While Evans and her team were not deployed to respond to either disaster, she is always ready to travel to various locations and provide hands-on medical care and assistance directly to people devastated by a disaster.

      “Without the support of my Widener colleagues and leaders, I would be unable to stand prepared with my response team to act in a moment’s notice and provide medical care and relief to those who need it most,” Evans said. “I believe that the administration’s understanding and flexibility with my voluntary role exemplifies Widener’s commitment to character and leadership.”

      During these disasters, the federal government’s reaction is guided by FEMA’s National Response Framework – a playbook for disasters and emergencies. Nurses like Evans are a key component of that plan.

      “We have a body of knowledge that can help people,” said Evans.

      nursing students harvey disaster

      Nursing Students

      In September, Evans accompanied nursing students to the Philadelphia Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon medical station.

      On top of being a member of the NJ1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team, she volunteers on the Bucks County, Philadelphia and Montgomery County Medical Reserve Corps and the South-Eastern Pennsylvania Surge Medical Assistance Team. The work can range from arranging flu vaccinations in Bucks County to staffing medical stations for humanitarian and diplomatic missions, such as when the Pope visited Philadelphia in 2015.

      Evans’ path toward nursing has always been grounded in volunteerism. In the 1970s, she was a volunteer emergency medical technician. She then earned her nursing diploma and worked for years as an emergency room nurse.

      She found that education could open more possibilities to prepare herself and others for disasters or emergencies. This led her to a Master in Nursing at Widener in 2007, followed by a PhD in 2016.

      Evans began teaching at Widener in May 2014. Her experiences from the field help nursing students gain a deeper understanding of what they may someday be called to do.

      NDMS thanked Widener for allowing Evans to serve during times of crisis and, when necessary, to deploy to regions of the United States and its territories that are in need.


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