Helping Veterans is the first mission of VA, but the mission extends beyond the walls of medical centers and clinics
VA’s “Fourth Mission” is to improve the nation’s preparedness for response to war, terrorism, national emergencies, and natural disasters by developing plans and ensuring continued service to Veterans, as well as to supporting national, state, and local emergency management, public health, safety and homeland security efforts. As part of this fourth mission, VA is assisting state and local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In South Carolina, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center is helping the Veterans Victory House, a 220-bed, long-term care state Veteran nursing home, by supplying them with COVID test kits, conducting analyses and providing nursing staff. VVH, located in Walterboro, submitted a request to FEMA for eight nurses for a minimum of two weeks, to supplement their staff due to staffing shortages. Through VISN 7, the request was sent out to medical centers in the region. Two nurses from Charleston VA were selected among the eight total, the other six were sent from VA facilities in Alabama. From Charleston VA, Cheryl Karn, RN, a clinical nurse leader, and Heather Smith, LPN, who works in the GI Lab, started at VVH on June 8 to assist with caring for residents.
“Nursing has been my job since I graduated high school,” said Karn. “Assisting patients has always been what I’ve done. So, when this opportunity came up, I said I would help.”
At VVH, Karn works in the quarantine COVID unit where she works as part of the team to provide for all the patients’ acute needs when they are there.
“VVH is working hard to mitigate the spread of COVID by isolating these patients on a separate unit,” said Karn. “Everyone has been appreciative of us being there to assist.”
At VVH, she works as a floor nurse helping staff with normal operations for their regular residents.
Smith previously worked in a nursing home and knows how intense it can be to care for this specific population of patients.
“It’s especially hard on these patients because they can’t have visitors during this time,” said Smith. “It can be very isolating. It’s hard on the families too who can’t see their loved ones.”
Both Karn and Smith said the experience has been rewarding because they are able to help during this time of need. They are scheduled to remain at VVH until June 20.