Virtua Launches Employee Group for Veterans and Reservists
Kick-off Helps Mark Veterans Day on November 11, including free meals for vets
and active military
November 10, 2022 – This Veterans Day, Virtua Health is honoring the military veterans and reservists on its staff in a lasting and impactful way. The not-for-profit health system is launching a colleague “affinity group” called WE Serve, which will focus on the needs and issues of present and former armed-forces members on its 14,000-member workforce.
The new group, one of several “colleague communities” at Virtua, aims to foster conversation, build relationships, and organize events and community-service opportunities. (Colleague is Virtua’s preferred term for its employees.) WE Serve seeks to help the local military community, as well.
In one of its first acts, WE Serve has organized free meals on Veterans Day at all five Virtua hospital cafeterias for any veteran or active-duty military member in the community or on Virtua’s staff. The hospitals are in Camden, Marlton, Mount Holly, Voorhees, and Willingboro.
“Past and present U.S. military personnel can be found in all departments and divisions of Virtua Health. We value and appreciate their service to the country and believe this colleague community will provide them with a stronger sense of togetherness and belonging,” said John Kirby, OTR, MBA, president of Virtua Mount Holly and Virtua Willingboro hospitals.
“In addition to looking within, our aim is for WE Serve to be a bridge to military families in the region. We want them to know that Virtua is here for their health care needs,” continued Kirby, who serves as the executive ambassador of the new colleague community.
Among WE Serve’s early initiatives is to make patients’ military service more prominent in Virtua’s digital medical record system. A goal is to have medical providers use this information to acknowledge a patient appropriately and establish a deeper personal connection.
“This initiative gives colleagues in certain patient-facing roles a way to recognize and thank those who are veterans or active military. It is a small way to demonstrate respect, but it will go a long way,” said Virtua Health nursing director S. Jeanette Conrad-Mckee, MA, BSN. Conrad-Mckee will chair the WE Serve group for its first two years. Before her career as a nurse, she enlisted in the New Jersey National Guard and completed training to become a field medic.
Additionally, members of WE Serve recently visited Lakeview Memorial Park in Cinnaminson, to place flowers and flags on veterans’ graves. This activity supports a national movement called the Flag and Flower Challenge.
WE Serve also helped to organize a moment of silence at all Virtua hospitals on Veterans Day.
Caring for South Jersey Veterans
As the largest health system in South Jersey, Virtua Health has a history of caring for military families in the region. Virtua Mount Holly Hospital has specific ties to the military community, as it is in close proximity to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. In fact, throughout 2021, Virtua cared for hundreds of displaced people from Afghanistan who were temporarily housed at the base after fleeing their home country.
In November 2021, Virtua launched a new service called “Here to Serve.” This multidisciplinary program includes a dedicated personal health navigator who coordinates care for both veterans and active military members.
“We want those who serve our nation to concentrate on getting and staying well,” said Dr. Reg Blaber, executive vice president and chief clinical officer of Virtua Health. “Our process is simple: call us and we’ll handle the details.”
Dr. Blaber served as an internist in the U.S. Army for six years and achieved the rank of major while working at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Fort Benning, and Fort Meade.
About Colleague Communities at Virtua Health
Virtua Health, one of the largest employers in the Greater Philadelphia region, offers several colleague communities. These colleague-led groups include:
- Women at Virtua
- Black and African American Colleague Community
- OUT at Virtua (for LGBTQ+ individuals and allies)
- VirtuAsia (for colleagues who are Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders)
In addition to the new WE Serve group, two more colleague communities are under development. One is geared toward young staff members (ages 30 and younger) and the other is for Latinx colleagues.
The capitalization of the word “WE” in WE Serve references Virtua Health’s Culture of WE, a collection of guiding principles established by Virtua colleagues following the acquisition of Lourdes Health System in 2019. These tenets – centering on inclusive teamwork, purposeful leadership, and caring with accountability – aim to provide common language and shared values across a workforce spanning several counties and hundreds of settings.
“At Virtua Health, we believe our culture unites us in being the community’s trusted choice for health care and wellness,” said Rhonda Jordan, SHRM-SCP, executive vice president and chief human resources officer for Virtua Health. “Therefore, it’s critical that each member of our team knows they belong and that they add value.”