Ascension Florida is on the front lines of veteran health care

Ascension Florida is working to be one of the nation’s premier health systems to serve active duty military and veterans.

Ascension Florida’s roots with the military began more than 100 years ago, when the Daughters of Charity cared for soldiers during the Spanish American war.

Before founding Ascension St. Vincent’s, the sisters staffed a field hospital near Hogan’s Creek in Jacksonville and cared for the wounded serving our country. Later, in the early years of Naval Air Station Jacksonville, the Navy asked Ascension St. Vincent’s to train some of its doctors.

Today, both Ascension Sacred Heart and Ascension St. Vincent’s are blessed by a common bond and close ties with the nation’s military personnel, veterans and their families. Ascension Florida continues to strengthen and expand those connections by training military nurses, doctors, corpsmen and corpswomen and helping to heal our nation’s heroes.

The U.S. Navy and Air Force have a strong and vibrant presence across North Florida. Naval Station Mayport is one of three major Navy installations in the Jacksonville area which includes Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

Naval Air Station Pensacola, home to the Blue Angels, serves as the primary training base for all officers seeking to become Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard aviators. NAS Pensacola also provides training for all U.S. Navy Flight Surgeons.

Additionally, Ascension Sacred Heart’s facilities in Okaloosa and Walton Counties are neighbors to Eglin Air Force Base and Ascension Sacred Heart, previously Bay Medical Sacred Heart, serves the families of military personnel stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City.

Over the past two years, leaders from Ascension St. Vincent’s and Naval Air Station Jacksonville have formed an innovative partnership that is now garnering the attention of military medicine nationally.

Ascension St. Vincent’s opened its facilities to naval healthcare providers from a variety of disciplines, allowing them to regularly practice and maintain their clinical competencies to ensure deployment readiness at a moment’s notice.

In turn, the health system receives the privilege of caring for active-duty Navy personnel, their families and veterans who require care beyond that which the team at Naval Hospital Jacksonville can provide.

Ascension Sacred Heart Pensacola is developing similar programs with the Navy and Air Force with new initiatives launching weekly.

Naval Hospital Pensacola now allows its healthcare providers — including Navy nurses, hospital corpsmen and women, and physicians — to participate in clinical rotations in the hospital’s emergency room, trauma center, intensive care units and operating rooms.

Ascension Sacred Heart also trains primary care residents from Eglin Air Force Base and offers surgical rotations for residents from Keesler Medical Center in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Most important, however, is how Ascension Florida cares for members of the military and their families.

To ensure top-notch care, Ascension Sacred Heart created the position of “Military Patient Navigator.” The current holder of that title is Sabrina Granese, a former Navy Nurse Corps Officer who serves in the Navy Reserve Nurse Corps, and her sole focus is caring for military patients.

Ascension Sacred Heart has also created a veteran recognition program that identifies veteran patients so that they can receive the recognition they deserve when in the hospital.

Veteran patients receive a special veteran wristband upon admission and have an American flag label displayed on their patient chart and door frame to encourage nursing staff and the care team to thank them for their service. Each veteran patient is also given a special challenge coin.

If a veteran passes away in the hospital, the family is offered the opportunity to participate in Ascension’s “Final Salute” program.

During the Final Salute, the departing veteran’s gurney is draped with the American flag, hospital associates and visitors line the main entrance corridor standing silently or saluting while taps plays over the intercom as an “honor walk” procession escorts the departing veteran out of the building.

Ascension staff who previously served in the military are encouraged to fall in line and join the procession as it passes.

The Final Salute is a solemn and unforgettable good-bye to one who served the country so bravely. Ascension St. Vincent’s has a similar veteran recognition program, including the Final Salute, and is in the process of hiring a military patient navigator.

Across the country, Ascension is working to be one of the nation’s leading health systems to serve active duty military and veterans when services are needed, and it is finding ways to partner with and serve the military at sites of care in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

“It is truly an honor to serve and support those who sacrifice themselves to serve our country and protect the very freedoms with which we are so blessed,” said Tom VanOsdol, Ascension Florida’s president and CEO.

video describing Ascension Florida’s veteran-related initiatives is below. A video of a Final Salute honor walk begins at the four-minute mark.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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