Silver Spoons program provides veterans a helping hand

Published 10:10 am Thursday, March 26, 2015

By Michael Maddox

W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center Public Affairs

There’s nothing that can make the day brighter for someone who has been admitted to a hospital than visits from family or friends – not only for the company but to help the patient get little tasks accomplished.

The Salisbury VA Medical Center leadership recognized this need, and as a result the Silver Spoons Volunteer Feeding Program was recently implemented in the facility’s Medical/Surgical Acute Care Center.

Sharon Hunter, a Graduate Healthcare Administration Training Program (GHATP) administrative fellow working at the Salisbury VAMC, has been instrumental in getting this new program off the ground.

GHAPT supplements the teaching component of health services administration graduate programs by providing interns/recent graduates the ability to apply the knowledge gained through coursework. Through this program, VA provides in-hospital experiences for students who are receiving or who have just received their master’s degrees.

One of those in-hospital experiences came in the form of a project assigned to her from Salisbury VAMC Director Kaye Green.

“Ms. Green brought it to my attention that she had seen programs like the Silver Spoons program at other institutions where she has worked in the past. She felt Acute Care could benefit with the implementation of a Silver Spoons program,” she said.

“The workload in Salisbury’s Medical/Surgical Acute Care Center has seen an increase over the past five years. The number of unique patients has increased by 9 percent, and the number of days beds were used by a single patient has increased by 4 percent, and that growth is projected to continue,” said Hunter. “Because of this growth, the director identified the acute care unit as one of the departments in the hospital that the program would be helpful in by affording the nurses more time to focus on complex medical issues.”

Hunter said the volunteers visit with patients in the Acute Care unit during meal times to help those who need assistance in eating their meals. They also help with small tasks to help the veterans and to just spend time talking to them to make their stay a little more comfortable by engaging them in conversation.

Sue Gooch, who has been volunteering at the Salisbury VAMC for one year and at the Durham VAMC for 23 years, drives two hours to Salisbury to volunteer in the Silver Spoons program. She said the feeling she gets from volunteering more than makes up for the long drive.

“I’ve been volunteering with the hospital for a long time, and I believe in giving back through service for the people who served us,” she said. “I really enjoy getting to be there for the veterans, and I hope the rest of the volunteers have as much fun doing this as I do.”

Leslie Eason, chief of Voluntary Services, said volunteers like Gooch are key to the success of programs like this.

“We have wonderful volunteers here at the medical center — they have an enormous impact on the health and well-being of our veterans,” he said. “I think this is a wonderful program. This is a feeding program, but the added benefit of companionship is irreplaceable. Our volunteers play a major part in raising the morale of each of our veterans.”

There are 19 volunteers in the program, which kicked off in February, serving patients in the 34 beds in the Acute Care Center. All of the volunteers had to be trained on various tasks before being allowed to start working with the veterans. Hunter said that she hopes the program will grow in the future, but that will be decided after there’s been time to monitor the program and see where any improvements can be made.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the Silver Spoons Volunteer Feeding Program, or any other volunteer positions at the Salisbury VAMC, can call Voluntary Services at 704-638-9000, ext. 3906, or stop by the Voluntary Service office in Building 6.