Sue Hensley’s Life-Long Service
By Ashley Peterson-DeLuca
A frequent question Sue Hensley receives from her son is: "Hey, Mom! When are you really going to retire?"
She told everyone she was retiring from her 46-year nursing career in 2016. For 20 years Hensley worked as a Charge Nurse for a 52-bed Pediatric Unit and then as a House Supervisor for the evening and night shifts at Bergan Mercy Hospital. Next, she joined the Visiting Nurses Association (VNA) as a Home Care Nurse, where she stayed for 26 years.
The night before Hensley retired from the VNA, she was invited to do a ride-along with her local Red Cross Disaster Action Team.
“I was just blown away at how the clients were cared for. I knew I had found a new home,” says Hensley.
She already had many connections with the Red Cross. Barbara Long, a long-time Red Cross nurse, mentored Sue’s health service career. And, the VNA was formed because of work performed by nurse Clara Barton, the Red Cross’s founder and first leader.
Hensley has been a volunteer with the Red Cross since 2016. She is thankful for many aspects of her journey with the Red Cross. She is most notably thankful for Nathan Woodruff, who became her mentor and helped her acclimate to Red Cross volunteer life. Woodruff helped her
set up preparedness events and gave her the tools to be successful in her early days as a volunteer.
She now oversees the Nebraska-Iowa Health Service team based on the public nurse concept, which has the goal of improving the overall health of the community. They have a team of 12 nurses for the region. Nurses assist clients by replacing medications, eyeglasses and medical equipment lost in a disaster.
“My RN life prepared me for my present role as the Co-DHS lead for Nebraska and Iowa,” says Hensley. “I feel our most important job is to listen to our clients talk about their disaster tragedies and help them return to normalcy.”
Hensley has deployed 20 times to respond to disasters all over the United States. She served as a shelter nurse, in staff health, for the Integrative Care and Condolence Team (ICCT), for mass casualty incidents and as a certified Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) driver. The Disaster Health Service team is currently made up of 1,711 nurses nationally.
“I had a remarkable time with each deployment,” says Hensley. “Whenever I have deployed, I always meet up with some of these same nurses and we are like old friends.”
Locally, she helps put on preparedness events for school-aged students, scout groups, grandparents, Red Cross Board Members and many health fairs.
“It is so rewarding to listen to the children tell me their experiences with house fires, tornadoes, floods. They each have a story to tell,” says Hensley. “I also love to show off our ERV at the health fairs.”
Sue isn’t stopping anytime soon. She’s taking on a new chapter of experience as a volunteer partner to Gina Troncone, Disaster Program Manager, for territories 2 and 3, responding to community needs after a disaster.
If you are interested in making a difference in your community as a Red Cross volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more.