Earlier this fall, Sarah Sabourin was leaving a job skills session at the Learning Resources Center at VA’s Manhattan Campus, when she encountered Agata Rucz, an OEF/OIF Marine Corps Veteran, in the hallway. Rucz missed the session, but after speaking briefly with Sabourin, became enthusiastic about attending the next class, which was scheduled for the following week.

Rucz_Marine_Corps_VeteranRucz had been deployed to Iraq as part of the Lioness program. She has a B.A. and her dream is to work for the Federal Aviation Administration, but she found the online job search and application process very frustrating.  Sabourin, who works with the American Red Cross, was a key player in initiating the job skills training program, as well as bringing it to VA New York Harbor Healthcare System (NYHHCS). 

VA’s side of the partnership is represented by chief librarian Peter Cole.  He finds that since he joined VA two years ago, one of the best ways he can put his skills to use is by expanding the traditional role of the librarian as organizer of information to patient navigator.

Cole coordinated the transition of his facility’s traditional library into an educational learning center by placing  a heavy emphasis on over the shoulder learning and connecting VA resources.

“When I came to Manhattan, Associate Director Jodie Jackson told my team that Veterans spend one percent of their lives here. She explained that she would like VA to continue providing Veterans with the best care outside of their appointments,” Cole recalled. “The Learning Resources Center is a vehicle for extending the excellent level of care Veterans receive at the VA NYHHCS, all the while providing the VA health care providers and staff with more information on what Veterans need to achieve their health goals.”

Libraries have been community centers for millennia, Cole explained, but here we have the opportunity to learn more about VA care, be an organizational center for patient-provider interactions, and library service staff have an opportunity to use their information and customer service skills to further Veterans understanding of their care. 

Implementing training sessions for Veterans in partnership with the American Red Cross highlights Cole’s commitment to the “other 99 percent” of Veterans lives.  “To me, this is personalized, proactive, and patient-driven health care, and I am honored and proud to serve our nation’s Veterans in this navigator capacity.”


About the Author: Claudie Benjamin is the Public Affairs Specialist, VA NY Harbor Healthcare System


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Published on Nov. 13, 2015

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