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Miami VA Healthcare System

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Frontline Program improves health care experience

Frontline Volunteer Ambassador Alcene Jenkins gives directions to Veteran at the Bruce W. Carter VA Medical Center.

Frontline Volunteer Ambassador Alcene Jenkins gives directions to a Veteran at the Bruce W. Carter VA Medical Center.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Whether it’s a smile or a helping hand, simple acts can help create positive health care experiences for patients. When patients are dealing with the anxiety and stress of surgery, a positive health care experience is crucial. The Miami VA Frontline Program and its team of ambassadors at the Bruce W. Carter VA Medical Center are hoping to improve health care experiences and reduce the stresses of surgery by providing concierge support services for Veterans and their families during the perioperative process.

The Frontline ambassadors provide a number of support services for surgery patients and their families: help during the surgical check-in process; assistance in navigating to clinics, rooms and labs at the medical center to reduce confusion and wait times; an extra set of hands to retrieve items and belongings for immobile patients in recovery; and more. Patients who experienced the service firsthand said they were grateful to have extra support.

“This is a great program,” said Lonnie Lester, U.S. Army Veteran. “When I needed to get somewhere in the hospital, the ambassadors were always around to help me get to where I needed to go. It’s a good thing they do for Veterans. I can’t thank them enough.”

Dr. Christina Matadial, center, and Sandra Bahhur, left, stand with Frontline ambassadors Alcene Jenkins, second from left, Su Sheau Ing, third from right, and Alicia Bello, right.

Dr. Christina Matadial, center, and Sandra Bahhur, left, started the Miami VA Frontline Program in 2014 to improve the experiences of surgery patients. Ambassadors Alcene Jenkins, second from left, Su Sheau Ing, second from right, and Alicia Bello, right, have different ambassador roles to help patients at the Bruce W. Carter VA Medical Center.

Dr. Christina Matadial, Miami VA chief of Anesthesia section, and Sandra Bahhur, surgical service operating room scheduler, started the Frontline Program—the first VA initiative of its kind in Florida—in 2014 with one goal in mind: to give patients undergoing surgery a positive experience.

“The people we care for everyday are not just patients to us; they represent the best of our nation,” Dr. Matadial said. “Since I never had the chance to serve, the least I can do is help give our Veterans a positive health care experience. Surgery can be a stressful, but our ambassadors provide support for our patients throughout the surgical process to help remind them they are not alone.”

The Frontline Program continues to be a success with patients because of volunteer ambassadors like Alcene Jenkins. Although she could have chosen any other volunteer vacancy at the medical center, Jenkins said she immediately knew a Frontline ambassador position would be a good fit for her.

“After 25 years of working as a nursing assistant at The Nursing Center at Mercy, I learned the best part of working with patients is making them smile,” Jenkins said. “My ambassador role is to help patients and their families find their way around the hospital. It’s a privilege and an honor for me to give back to Veterans like Mr. Lester, because they gave so much for us. If any new volunteer is looking for a rewarding experience helping Veterans, I would ask them to come talk to me or any Frontline ambassador about this program.”

You can help make a difference in the lives of South Florida Veterans. The Miami VA Frontline Program is always looking for friendly people to join its team of dedicated ambassadors. For more information about the Miami VA Frontline Program, contact the Miami VA Voluntary Service at 305-575-3140.


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