Last week I had the chance to visit the Baltimore VA (Veterans Affairs) Medical Center. I get to experience more of it this week before I return to do my staff relief at my original hospital starting next Monday.
Going into the middle of the city was a little intimidating. Although I have lived most of my life in Maryland, Baltimore is not a place that I am very familiar with. Plus I HATE driving through cities (DC is terrifying and I vow to never drive in NYC). However, armed with my mom’s GPS, a labcoat, and an open mind, I navigated rush-hour traffic and jammed city streets to find myself at the VA. I had never been in a VA before and wasn’t sure what to expect. With a loved one recently commissioned in the Army, I wasn’t very keen on handling wounded soldiers. That turned out to be a misconception, however, because most of the patients are actually older veterans with your typical run-of-the-mill older adult illnesses and conditions. They’re just like any other patients at a hospital, except most of them are over 50 and they are almost all men.
I am really impressed with the nutrition staff on hand. They are all extremely intelligent and very helpful in explaining everything that they do. Each day I have spent time with a different dietitian doing tasks in foodservice, inpatient services, and outpatient services. In the kitchen, I got to see how diet orders are processed and even try some pureed food (surprisingly tasty once you got past the appearance and texture!) The inpatient process is pretty standard, with electronic documentation which is great. I even provided a CHF (Congestive Heart Failure) low-sodium diet education to a really nice veteran who came in after noticing edema in his ankles for the first time. The VA also offers a lot of outpatient services including nutrition counseling. I was lucky enough to be able to sit in on a thirty-minute appointment and observe the session’s documentation process.
Tomorrow I go in bright (or should I say dark, now that it’s November?) and early to experience a class taught by dietitians to help veterans achieve a healthy weight. This is the first time I have had an opportunity to sit in on a large class-type setting with an adult audience, so it should be interesting!