Joseph Valenzuela, a Filipino nursing student at Rutgers University-Camden in New Jersey, has created a digital resource to help nursing students with disaster preparedness and recovery efforts.
In 2013, Valenzuela’s father, Jose Valenzuela Jr., traveled to the Philippines on a business trip, but was stranded there because of the onslaught of supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
“We lost contact with him for about two weeks,” says Valenzuela. “We didn’t know where he was. It was frightening.”
The storm claimed thousands of lives and left many others injured or homeless, but miraculously, Valenzuela’s father was safe and made it back to his family.
“He’s a strong man,” Valenzuela says of his father. “I somehow knew he was okay, but when you hear the numbers — that it was one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded, and the number of people who didn’t survive — that’s terrifying. It’s one thing to see it on TV, but when you’re actually there as he was, it’s different. I think it proved to all of us the value of life.”
Last December, two years after the storm, Joseph Valenzuela returned with his father to the Philippines, where many of his family members reside. There, he saw a country still dealing with the effects of typhoon Yolanda, and Valenzuela wanted to do something to help.
The Rutgers–Camden student, who graduated from Cherry Hill High School East, was tasked with coming up with a service project for a community health class he was taking at the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden. For Valenzuela, the idea was simple: take one of the most harrowing moments of his life and turn it into something positive.
“I thought about the role of a nurse and how it isn’t just limited to the local community,” Valenzuela says.
“We are Rutgers, after all — local roots and global reach. It’s a nurses’ job to give back to the global community, too. I thought about how no one in the Philippines was prepared for that typhoon, and the difficulty in preparing for and carrying out recovery efforts.”
For his class, Valenzuela created a digital resource to help nursing students with disaster preparedness and recovery efforts. The tool draws upon information from the World Health Organization, the United Nations, the Red Cross, and other global organizations.
“Whether it be how to prepare a backpack full of supplies, or how to care for people in the aftermath, I wanted to create something to help nursing students be in position to take on a relief role in a disaster,” Valenzuela says. “Nurses have the skills needed in that kind of situation. They can provide basic care and they can be leaders when a crisis happens.”
Valenzuela is working to share his resource with undergraduate nursing students in the Philippines and even wants high school students there to utilize it. He hopes it becomes a valuable tool for the next generation of nurses.
“Every nurse should try and make a global impact,” he says. “Global healthcare is so important now, and it’s even more important to do what you can to give back to the global community.”