The patient ambassador program at the Orlando VA plays an important role assisting Veterans in need, says Army Veteran Reinaldo Gonzalez.

“Coming to a large medical center can be very overwhelming for Veterans like me,” said Gonzalez. “I come here almost every day for occupational and physical therapy but am in this wheelchair, so getting from point A to point B can be very challenging.”

In the photo, patient ambassador Rudi Heinrich takes Gonzalez to his physical therapy appointment.

Helping Veterans get to where they need to go is only one of the many responsibilities of a patient ambassador. According to patient ambassador Lala Newman, patient ambassadors assist with enhancing the overall patient’s experience when coming to the medical center.

Rewarding to bond with Veterans

“We aim to go beyond Veteran’s expectations when they walk through our door,” said Newman. “We work to serve as translators for some patients and answer questions about a number of facility or health care related issues. We even search for misplaced cars in the parking garage.”

As an Army Veteran, Newman says she loves connecting with patients. “It is so rewarding to bond with Veterans. They rely on us to be that person to help them and I love helping people.”

Veterans Experience Officer Dr. Amber Tierney explains that the patient ambassador program was initially created to provide individualized information and way-finding assistance. However, it has transformed and become engrained in the Veteran centric culture. 

“The program started out as a way to solve immediate problems. Over time, it has become part of Orlando VA’s culture,” said Tierney. “Our patient ambassadors help foster strong relationships with Veterans. They remember their names, daily routines, and preferences for those like Reinaldo who come to us almost every day.”

Focusing on creating a culture of care, patient ambassadors work together as a cohesive team to provide high quality customer service and the best possible experience for Veterans.

“Ambassadors are courteous and respectful.”

According to Gonzalez, the patient ambassadors provide top notch service. “They are very efficient and helpful. They are courteous and respectful to whoever stops at the desk for help.”

Patient Ambassador and Air Force Veteran Chris Miller says it is his job to help Veterans with whatever it is that he or she needs.

“If patients are having issues getting to their appointments due to transportation issues, we can help link them up with a social worker to get them travel assistance. We can also offer them iPads that can help them receive virtual telehealth appointments,” said Miller. “Connecting patients with the right resources or to answer questions about any number of services available to them is the highlight of my job.”

By Melanie L. Thomas

Public affairs officer, Orlando VA

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Published on Sep. 14, 2022

Estimated reading time is 2.3 min.

Views to date: 434


  1. Marvin “Ernie “ Banks Jr, SSGT September 22, 2022 at 11:01 am - Reply

    My spouse and I drive 60 miles round trip to the New Loveland VA Clinic on Fridays. We love assisting veterans coming in for appointments. We have handed out masks, carried in boxes of wheel chairs, transported them from the parking lot. We feel we have a duty to help those that sacrificed part of their life to support democracy. I served in the USAF and also use these VA services. I invite anyone to volunteer your time to this worthwhile opportunity.

  2. Robert Bullard September 18, 2022 at 6:43 am - Reply

    To whom do I talk to about becoming a patient ambassador?

  3. marie dowd shapiro September 15, 2022 at 10:35 am - Reply

    Is this available in pennsylvania?

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