FORT POLK, La. –
Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital Rehabilitation Department welcomed a new American Red Cross volunteer this summer. Christina McDonald, a member of the Crimson Tide Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Battalion and a kinesiology major from the University of Alabama, spent two weeks shadowing the physical therapists at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana.
McDonald said her brother, the chief nurse in charge of the BJACH emergency department, suggested volunteering during her summer break.
“I was talking to my brother about visiting and he suggested I volunteer at the hospital to check out the physical therapy department,” she said. “Ever since I switched my major to kinesiology, becoming a physical therapist has been my goal. I’ve job shadowed at several civilian clinics but being at BJACH has reinvigorated my passion for the profession. It’s nice seeing the military side of it, I absolutely love it and have been excited to come to work every day.”
McDonald said she plans to volunteer again next summer after her ROTC advanced camp. She is also planning to apply to the Army-Baylor University Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy.
Maj. Cody McDonald, CNOIC for BJACH ED, said he thought volunteering with the Red Cross in the BJACH rehab department was a great opportunity for his sister.
“I love my sister. She means the world to me and I would do anything to help her achieve her dreams,” he said. “I am blessed we have such an amazing team willing to facilitate her growth!”
McDonald said this experience will benefit her as a future Army Officer and physical therapist.
“The diversity of working in a military treatment facility provides a glimpse into a world many cadets do not get the opportunity explore,” he said. “Hopefully this experience will help her understand the cultural and team approach we need to function as a unit. I know the Baylor program is very competitive, this experience will look great on her application and help her build her network. Volunteering at BJACH will also give Christina a better understanding of what might be expected of her, as a future army officer.”
1st Lt. Steven Candeto said having a Red Cross volunteer in the rehabilitation department has been gratifying.
“Christina has been a great addition to our team in rehab. I have always been a supporter of having volunteers in the clinic who are interested in pursuing physical therapy,” he said. “Being able to share my clinical experience is rewarding. By allowing volunteers in our footprint we continue to encourage everyone to provide relevant, research-based education. This is not only beneficial to our patients but also for the future of our profession.”
Candeto said he hopes the experience was beneficial for McDonald.
“I hope this experience helps develop her passion for what we do as rehab professionals in the Army,” he said. “Rehab in the Army is very different than the civilian world. This face-to-face experience is invaluable in order to provide perspective on how we operate and fulfill our primary mission of getting Soldiers back into the fight. Prior to physical therapy school, I was given a similar opportunity to spend time in an Army MTF. If being a physical therapist in the military is something you want to do, seeing how we do it in real life is motivating.”
McDonald said she comes from a long lineage of veterans; her brother, father, uncles, several cousins and both grandfathers all served in the Army and her grandmother was in the Navy.
“I’ve always been very proud of my military family,” she said. “But it wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school that I decided to pursue a military career.”
McDonald said the experience has been extremely productive.
“I’ve learned so much. I’m not only learning what a physical therapist in the Army does on a day-to-day basis, through this shadowing opportunity, I’ve also learned a lot that I can apply to my life now,” she said. “The biggest thing is the problem solving. I’ve been sitting in on consultations and evaluations with the lieutenant in the mornings. Watching the physical therapists figuring out the root cause of a patient’s pain through a variety of tests, descriptions and ruling out what it isn’t, then creating treatment plans to fix the situation and seeing how it has affected the patients at the next visit has been very interesting to witness.”
McDonald said volunteering with the Red Cross has also been unique experience that she plans to continue when she returns to Tuscaloosa, Alabama next week.
“I’m very excited that I am now a Red Cross Volunteer because there are so many things I can do with this organization,” she said. “The Red Cross team at Fort Polk has been great, they helped me get squared away before I got here, and they welcomed me, made me feel at home and were a great resource. The Red Cross is a great organization that does so much for the community.”
McDonald said the knowledge she’s gained as a volunteer at BJACH has been invaluable.
Stacey McLean, interim program manager, American Red Cross of Louisiana Service to the Armed Forces & International Services said there are a lot of volunteer opportunities at BJACH.
“Before beginning your journey as a Red Cross volunteer at the Fort Polk hospital there are several requirements that need to be completed, but we will help guide you through it,” she said. “First thing to do is register with volunteerconnection.redcross.org, next attend the Red Cross Volunteer orientation, complete an occupational health screening and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) training, attend the BJACH orientation, get a badge and finalize child background checks and credentialing if necessary and appropriate for your volunteer position.”
McLean said she can be reached at 337-531-4783
or potential volunteers can email the BJACH Red Cross Program Lead, Syble McGrew at firstname.lastname@example.org
McDonald said volunteering can give people a sense of purpose and the Red Cross is a great organization to help potential volunteers pursue things they are interested in.
“I appreciate the community here, everyone at BJACH has been sweet and approachable and reaffirmed by goals of serving in the military and pursue a physical therapy career,” she said. “Fort Polk is nice, the amenities offered to Soldiers and their families are great: the bowling alley, the movie theater and all the gyms. Since I’ve been here I’ve gone to Alexandria and Lake Charles and if I were here longer I know New Orleans, Houston and other great places aren’t that far away. A quote in the hospital orientation really stuck with me it said, ‘welcome to Fort Polk, you’re in the middle of everything’ and it’s so true, every place is really what you make of it.”
McDonald said if you take advantage of what the installation has to offer, get involved with the community and explore on your free time Fort Polk is a great place to be.