VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System presents I CARE awards to VA employees whose actions demonstrate the Department of Veterans Affairs I CARE Core Values of Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence
September’s I CARE Award winners, registered nurse Sandra Koontz and medical support assistant (MSA) Ashley Sams, helped a Veteran who was homeless get transportation to our University Drive medical center in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. The Veteran needed medications for severe physical problems. When he was unable to obtain them from a community provider’s emergency department, he contacted Koontz in Community Care to see if he could come to VA for care. Since the Veteran is not service-connected, he was ineligible for transportation to the medical center. Undeterred, Koontz reached out to colleague Sams, an MSA in Community Care who is familiar with transportation options for disabled Veterans. Sams gave the Veteran directions to the nearest DAV van pickup location, the van’s schedule, and documentation he would have to provide to ride with DAV. Using that information, the Veteran obtained a ride to University Drive the following day, where he received the care and medication he needed.
October’s I CARE Award winner, radiation therapist Patricia Meneskie, helped a Veteran with a history of behavioral health outbursts through 33 very difficult treatments for head and neck cancer. Meneskie took care to always treat the Veteran with respect and compassion, spoke calmly to him, and went out of her way to make him laugh. She volunteered to provide the Veteran with his daily treatments because she knew he enjoyed her kindness, humor, compassion and dedication to excellent care. With Meneskie’s help, the Veteran finished all treatments and follow-up appointments. Although the Veteran has since died, Meneskie made certain that when he was receiving his treatments, he knew that she – and everyone in VA Pittsburgh’s radiation therapy department – loved and cared for him.
November’s I CARE Award winner, housekeeping aide James Northcutt, showed empathy and poise when he helped calm a distressed Veteran patient. While working on 5 West at University Drive, Northcutt overheard a Veteran patient berating a nurse. Northcutt quickly stepped in to assist. He spoke calmly but firmly with the Veteran to de-escalate the situation. His efforts ensured staff did not have to call a code for assistance for a behavioral health incident.
December’s I CARE Award winners, nursing assistants Sandra D. Yavoich, Lloyd C. Adams and Lester R. Williams, worked as a team to save a Veteran’s life. While checking on patients during rounding, Yavoich approached a Veteran who was seated in a wheelchair in his room to ask him if he needed assistance. When the Veteran didn’t answer, Yavoich noticed he wasn’t breathing. She immediately notified nursing staff to initiate a code for cardiac/respiratory arrest. Adams and Williams responded to the code and immediately began chest compressions and CPR, successfully resuscitating the Veteran.
January’s I CARE award winners, social worker Samantha Gyory and Public Affairs Chief Kathleen Pomorski, assisted Veterans in unrelated situations that required quick action.
Gyory was on her way home from work at University Drive when she noticed a Veteran near the pharmacy area bleeding from cut wrists. Gyory immediately jumped into action, taking the Veteran to the Emergency Department and staying with the individual for several hours until admitted. Her selfless actions, along with her daily commitment to respecting and serving all Veterans, embodies VA’s I Care core values.
Pomorski quickly stepped in to help a Veteran determine on short notice if he could have a medical procedure performed at VA. The Veteran called Pomorski for help because he discovered just days before he was to undergo the procedure at a non-VA facility that he could no longer afford the costs. Pomorski reached out to the appropriate contacts to save the Veteran from committing to an unaffordable surgery. Pomorski continues to advocate for Veterans, offering her expert advice and help whenever needed.