VA Summer Volunteer Project

Name: Casey McPhillips

Type of Project: Service-Learning & Community Service

This past summer I spent my time volunteering at the VA Chalmers P. Wylie Ambulatory Care Facility. While working in the hospital, I served as an intern for the founder and coordinator of the Veteran’s Art Initiative. This entailed running and overseeing the Open Art Studios hosted at the hospital, organizing and designing a presentation format that could be used for marketing, program assessment and development, and to legitimize the fiscal value for complimentary Whole Health programs, and acting as an administrative lead on a facility wide Public Relations marketing campaign.

It was an eye-opening experience serving those who served our country. Many of the patients that I interacted with wrestled with varying mental health issues that made their daily lives an immense struggle. Being part of this organization and volunteering my time to help these people was extremely gratifying. The care provided at the Chalmers P. Wylie hospital had a huge impact on the veterans.

While I loved the impact that I was making on these people’s lives, I also realized that one on one patient care was not the path for me. For a very long time I had planned to attend medical school and one day work as a doctor. During my time with the VA I had a great deal of one on one interactions with patients and I felt like I had a bigger impact helping administratively and that I was not always comfortable engaging all patients in conversation. While learning this about myself, I found a new career path that I not only enjoyed more but was better suited for.

During my time at the hospital, the current director had recently decided to resign. This meant that a new director would be coming on and my boss would need to present data on the programs that she was running. I was entrusted with taking the information that she had collected and creating a presentation for her to use to justify the fiscal value of the program and even advocate for an expansion of it. This was a tremendous responsibility and understanding the impact that this presentation would have made it a great honor. This was an administrative task that had no patient interaction, yet the work would still have a huge impact on the veterans. This was just one instance where I began to realize the affect I could have on patient health while working in Hospital Administration.

The other large administrative role that I filled while volunteering at the VA was as a coordinator for a PR marketing campaign that my boss was one of the leads on. While she was focused on interviewing veterans, I took care of all administrative duties. This included ensuring the completion of patient Hippa Compliance forms, documenting and distributing craft service reimbursement forms for time compensation, and supervising and facilitating Columbus VA partnership with an external media group. Filling this role was something that I enjoyed immensely and being in that leadership position was an experience that changed what I wanted out of my career. I no longer felt like I just wanted to be another employee but wanted to lead.

Probably the most eye-opening experience I had at the VA was my interactions with patients. I have worked retail jobs in the past and a part of me had foolishly thought that most of my time with patients would follow a similar tone. This was, of course, not the case at all, especially since the patients that I worked with were mostly there for mental health treatment. These moments made me realize, that while I wanted to help these people, I was not cut out for the daily, constant, one on one patient interaction that a doctor would face. Thankfully my position in the VA gave me an inside look at the administrative side of running a hospital and presented an alternative that I quickly learned I enjoyed.

Upon this realization, I had a discussion with my boss about my career goals and was given the opportunity to sit down with and interview the Health Systems Manager to the Director. She was a former Ohio State grad in Health Administration and told l me more about what the field was like. Meeting with her gave me a better idea of what a health administrator does and helped improve my understanding of what exactly it was that I wanted to do in my future career.

This experience has completely changed both my academic and professional goals. I’ve realized that I no longer want to become a doctor and that, while I still want to work in the health field, a job in administration is where my skills can be utilized to their full capacity and my career satisfaction and enjoyment can reach their full potential.