Nursing students group shot

By: Dale Steinke

Edited by: Betsy Robertson

Photos by: Tina Piaskowski

Using the power of music to heal veterans, a group of Gonzaga seniors are getting unique career experience through a 10-week Red Cross student nursing program.

For their rotation, Lauren Shaughnessy, Jill Kaltenecker, Abbey Jones and Madalyn Crosse are spending the last semester of their senior years working with people who have Alzheimer’s, dementia, PTSD and other cognitive and physical challenges at the Spokane Veterans Home.

Spokane vets home

Through the “Music & Memory” program, they help veterans by “creating individual playlists that are unique to their taste in music to help them reconnect to the world, tap into their past memories, and improve their quality of life,” Shaughnessy explained.

Nearby, WSU Spokane campus nursing students Holland Gjefle and Sara Van Natta are wrapping up their participation in the Red Cross community program, “Nurses Educating to Save Lives,” reaching out to the community about the blood bank and biomed program. They organized a blood drive competition between clinical groups at WSU’s College of Nursing in Spokane and built training materials for other students with the goal of increasing lifetime blood donors.

Valeta Biggs (center) leads the student nursing program for the American Red Cross in Spokane

Valeta Biggs, Health Services Lead for Greater Inland Northwest Red Cross, believes that when nursing students get experience working with people in the community, they gain a better understanding of how nursing can benefit society.

Biggs launched the Inland Northwest version of the national student nursing program in 2004. One of her regular Red Cross nurses was on the faculty at Washington State University and thought it would benefit the students to get exposure to the Red Cross.

“It’s exciting to see what they’re doing compared to what my training was like,” said Biggs, who retired from nursing in 2000 and was recently lauded for her extensive ongoing volunteer support of the Red Cross. “They’re so enthusiastic and excited about learning. By the time they leave, hopefully they are Red Cross people.”

It sounds like that could very well be the case for these students.

“We learned how versatile our nursing degree can truly be,” Shaughnessy said. “There are many unique nursing positions within the Red Cross that we could become involved in in our local chapters.”

The students encourage other nursing students to join the nursing program.

“It’s great to see how nurses can be involved in the community in other ways” than working in a hospital, Shaughnessy said. “There are a number of opportunities within the Red Cross for student nurses. Our project with Music & Memory provides a variety of opportunities including working with elderly clients, communicating with two cooperating organizations, and implementing a program creating individualized playlists for residents.”

And if you want to help, the students want you to know the Music & Memory program needs used iPods and will gladly accept any that are donated. Please email if you’d like to donate one.


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