BECKLEY, WV (LOOTPRESS) – Earlier this year, Crystal Thomas, RN was performing follow-up calls to check on Veterans after they had been discharged from the Beckley VA Medical Center. She was seeing how they were feeling. During one call, Crystal observed that a Veteran sounded tearful through the phone and expressed not feeling right.
“I knew their normal demeanor in person, and something was really off,” Crystal said. Crystal’s VA training for suicide prevention immediately kicked in. She reviewed their medical chart and noted there were no previous mental health conditions.
She thoughtfully engaged with the Veteran, who claimed they had access to weapons and a written plan to possibly end their life. They expressed feeling extremely socially isolated and alone.
Crystal and a primary care social worker contacted the Mental Health Department to secure a same day walk-in appointment for the Veteran. They were able to safely be seen and assessed to get the care they needed.
Recently Crystal received the VA Coin of Excellence and Employee of the Month for helping save the life of this Veteran with her quick problem-solving and personalized care and attention.
Crystal, who has been working at the VA since August 2006 and used to work on the medical-surgical unit. She said she was inspired to be a nurse by her father – an Army Veteran – who received care at the Beckley VAMC.
“After seeing nurses take care of him while he was in the hospital, I was inspired to pursue nursing,” she said.
In August 2010, Crystal moved to the Primary Care Clinic and earlier this year, as an RN care coordinator, transitioned to the Care in the Community Service Line.
Because of Crystal’s prompt action, diligent attention to detail, and caring nature, the Veteran who was in crisis in that moment is still with us today and enjoying a higher quality of life.
Crystal remains humble about the encounter but recognizes her contribution for a safe outcome.
“I love the VA,” Crystal said. “I love working here and taking care of our Veteran patients. There is nowhere else like the VA.”
Photo: Right to left: Robert Walton, FACHE, VISN 5 Network Director; Crystal Thomas, RN Care Coordinator; Desmond McMullan, MBA, Beckley VA Medical Center Director