Navy Reservists visit Hampton VA Medical Center

U.S. Army veteran Robert Vanderveer at the Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) spends time with Chief Mass Communication Specialist Wendy Wyman of Navy Reserve Navy Public Affairs Element East during a community outreach event, Feb. 8, 2020. The Hampton VAMC provides comprehensive primary and specialty care in medicine, surgery, and psychiatry. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Horacio G. Idrogo Jr.)

NORFOLK – Sailors assigned to Navy Reserve Navy Public Affairs Support Element (NR NPASE) East toured the Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) February 8, 2020. The tour afforded the Sailors the opportunity to build awareness of the care veterans receive at the VAMC.

The Sailors were able to spend time speaking with veterans in the care of the medical center about their time in the military and the strides the VA is taking to increase the scope of services provided by improving technology and expanding facilities.

“Strong communities are built on support and well-rounded care,” said Ensign Carolina Fernandez, assigned to NR NPASE East. “Today’s visit has shown me how the VA is working hard to serve veterans in all stages of their health care needs. In particular, I am impressed with the focus on providing female care and service to homeless veterans.”

Future expansions will offer a wide range of primary care services including a new women’s health care center. According to the VA, the total population of women veterans is expected to increase at an average rate of about 18,000 women per year, and the average age of female veterans seeking services is 48 compared to 63 for their male counterparts.

Along with the structural expansions, the Hampton VAMC is undergoing major technological advances as well. It currently has a 24-bed surgery unit which offers wound and ambulatory care with the ability to perform 40-50 outpatient surgeries per week. It has even introduced robotic surgery technology. The da Vinci Surgical System is a robotic device that is controlled by a surgeon from a console. It facilitates surgery to be minimally invasive and reduces patient recovery time.

“At the time we got the da Vinci robot last year, we were the only facility utilizing this technology on this side of the peninsula,” said John Rogers, Public Affairs Officer for Hampton VAMC.

The Hampton VAMC is geographically positioned among one of the largest Department of Defense active duty and military retiree populations in the United States. It is the second fastest growing VA facility in the country with an average patient population increase of seven percent every year. With this volume of patients, Hampton VAMC partners with other area facilities to ensure that every veteran receives the care they need.

“We are hand-in-hand with the Navy, as well as other services,” said Rogers. “Due to the fact that Naval Medical Center Portsmouth is so large, they are definitely the biggest help we have out of our partners.”

The Hampton VAMC is one of six VA hospitals in the country to have long-term care beds for spinal cord injury patients. These patients require nearly 24 hour care and may spend many years living in the facility. Volunteers help these veterans with activities of daily living, enhancing their hobbies and overall quality of life.

“We are fortunate to have a wonderful nursing staff that cares and does great things with our spinal cord injury patients,” said Jeannine Leonard, Chief Nurse of Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders. “The work that our volunteers do with our residents to help them maintain their independence is phenomenal.”

Talking to veterans proved to be a meaningful experience for the participating Sailors, and the tour provided a reminder to the veterans that their military community stands behind them to recognize and honor the path they charted for the freedoms we experience today.

“Today’s visit was a reminder of why I wanted to serve in the first place,” said Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Baxter. “These veterans paved the way for us, and they really provide a perspective on how precious our job is as the Navy’s storytellers not only to talk about today’s Sailors, but also to keep the stories alive of all the men and women who got us here.”

The medical center is a leader in technology and innovation providing health care services to Veterans in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. The Hampton VAMC is tertiary care, Complexity Level Two hospital. The Hampton VAMC provides comprehensive primary and specialty care in medicine, surgery, and psychiatry.