Sometimes the smallest gesture in life can have the biggest impact on a person. Bob Samartino, RN, at MidState Medical Center has witnessed this first hand for the last 11 years.
Bob’s story began back in 1984 – when he was just 19 years old. He was attending college at Central Connecticut State University when he decided he also wanted to serve his country in some capacity. “I decided to join the Army National Guard, so I enlisted at the infantry unit in Bristol, which is where I am from,” Samartino explained. He served until 1990.
Years later, while helping his parents through medical issues, he began to take an interest in healthcare. He decided to go to nursing school and graduated in 2009. That same year, he was hired at MidState Medical Center. It didn’t take long for him to make memorable interactions with patients, which would set off a sequence of events that nobody – including Bob – was expecting.
“I would start talking to men or women I was caring for and learn that they were veterans and I wanted to do something for them to help make them feel more at ease,” Samartino said. “So I decided to buy a bunch of small American flags, stashed them in my locker at work, and when I knew one of my patients was a veteran, I’d give them a flag.”
This went on for seven years, until it got the attention of colleagues and managers. They liked the idea so much, they, too, began passing out flags to patients who served our country and expanded the program to The Hospital of Central Connecticut.
Fast forward to the fall of 2021, Hartford HealthCare stepped in and decided to standardize this recognition across the system – launching “Stars & Stripes for Service” on Veterans Day – November 11, 2021. Every patient, who served our country, received an American flag on that day, or similar gift of gratitude depending on the care setting – as well as a thank you card. Since it’s important to recognize our veterans beyond just one day, certain Hartford HealthCare locations, such as The Hospital of Central Connecticut, have adopted this program year-round.
“We all have immense gratitude for those who have served our country. Stars & Stripes for Service is an example of how Hartford HealthCare continues to go above and beyond to make that interaction with our patients a meaningful one. We are so proud of the fact that this program got its start at MidState and has grown in such a meaningful way,” said Janette Edwards, vice president of operations for The Hospital of Central Connecticut and MidState Medical Center.
“It’s just truly incredible. What started out as such a simple idea has grown in a way I never could’ve imagined,” Samartino said. “These flags are making a world of difference. I’ve seen men and women cry when they get a flag – it’s so touching. It means a lot to us, to the patient and to their families.”
To learn more about the Stars & Stripes for Service program, visit www.hartfordhealthcare.org/veterans