Womack Army Medical Center runs strong with army of volunteers
January 21, 2011
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - These are the unsung heroes of Fort Bragg, attracting little attention as they mingle among the patients, visitors and staff of Womack Army Medical Center or its outlying clinics. Maybe it's the woman who greets you at the front desk or the man who handles your medical file. He could be the registered nurse who monitors your intravenous fluid or the surgeon who gives you a second chance at life.
The 350 Red Cross volunteers who serve our Soldiers and Family members are all valuable members of the Fort Bragg team. In essence, they serve our Soldiers so that Soldiers may serve our country.
Giving back comes natural to veterans like Philip Smith, a former administrative specialist who volunteers eight hours a day, four days a week, at Robinson Health Clinic.
"I plan to stay till the day I die," said Smith, who was recently nominated for ARC's volunteer of the month. "I've got to do something during the day, and I've got wonderful people that I work with - they keep me straight down there."
Smith spends his days filing and pulling medical records for active duty and dependents, adding documents to folders, copying documents per medical requests, faxing paperwork and answering questions at the medical records window.
Red Cross volunteers give over 5,000 hours every month, in capacities like social work, emergency medical services, golf cart drivers (for parking lot transportation), hospitality carts, dental clinics and leadership/training programs. According to Jeannette Salcedo, who volunteers much of her time as the ARC hospital chairman, about 90 percent of the positions involve some sort of administrative role. Although somewhat unglamorous, these positions are critical to the success of the hospital and it's commitment to quality health care.
The Red Cross' mission is to help military Families plan, prepare for and respond to emergencies, including localized medical issues like those treated at Womack and global crises like the recent 7.0 magnitude Haiti earthquake. All Fort Bragg stations fall under the ARC service to the armed forces department.
"The Red Cross is the only organization that can organize volunteers in a hospital setting on a military installation," said Sandy Mama, assistant station manager for the Fort Bragg/Pope Air Force Base branch of the American Red Cross. Volunteers initially attend a three-hour, Red Cross training and WAMC inprocessing/orientation (which includes a safety briefing and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act overview).
"All volunteers have a place here at the hospital," said Mama. "We have a lot of administrative positions that require little to no experience (up to) advanced levels, and then we do have positions that require licensed professionals as well," added Mama, who said that nearly 10 percent of WAMC staff are Red Cross volunteers.
Veterans continue to seek out the Red Cross as a way to stay connected with the military community in a service-oriented role. Arlie Smith returned to Fayetteville after retiring from the Army, drawn to the military-centric lifestyle this city offers.
"Records of discharged patients need to be down to records (department) in 48 hours, so we try to meet that - they give us a little leeway on weekends. I go in on Monday. That's the day they have the most records left because there's nobody to process them on Saturday and Sunday," Smith said.
Because of Smith's efforts, each record is marked with a time and date of discharge, paperwork is accurately placed in chronological or reverse chronological order, and filed properly.
In April, Smith will complete a decade of volunteer service with the Red Cross. He continues to help Fort Bragg Families, although most will never know his name or realize the impact of his dedication. Smith said, "My feeling is that if you're a volunteer, you're going to do whatever they ask you to do. That's an old military adage."