Think about the first time you went to the hospital. Kind of nerve-wracking, wasn't it? Lots of hustle and bustle. Hallways and corriders to navigate. Appointments to make. Overhead announcements. No wonder folks aren't exactly thrilled. Its for those reasons and others that the Customer Service Department at the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center began a Pathfinder program.
"We launched the VA Pathfinder program about three years ago," said Dr. Deborah Bilbrew, RN, PhD, "in an effort to meet and greet our Veterans and make them feel welcome. We started out with 48 employee volunteers."
VA Pathfinders are responsible for helping Veterans and their families: 1) make appointments in a timely manner, 2.) answer any questions for Veterans/visitors, 3.) assist with transportation by contacting escort services, locating an available wheelchair or walking a Veteran directly to their destination. Pathfinders are available at the main entrance Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. Volunteers for the program agree to designate at least one hour per month to the program.
"We're down to about 15 regular volunteers," said Bilbrew. "We could always use more. Getting the support of your supervisor is the first step. Some employees even donate their break time."
Respiratory Therapist Mable LaVerne Richardson is one of those employee volunteers.
"I dedicate four hours per month," said Richardson. "It's very rewarding. I look to see if a Veteran or family member needs some help. You can always tell by their eyes."
Sometimes its just a simple "hello" that makes all the difference in the world.
"Really the the job of a VA Pathfinder never ends," said Richardson. "Even during our routine duties if we see a Veteran or family member that needs help we should always be there."
If you're interested in supporting this program and becoming a VA Pathfinder, please contact Deborah Bilbrew at extension 1559 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.