Medal of Honor recipient advises HCA Healthcare colleagues on interacting with veterans

Two men shaking hands

Military and civilian training often differ in their approaches to tasks, but taking the time to listen and discuss differences and concerns creates a more solid team

Bob Ingram started his military service in aviation, but an unfortunate event led him to his passion: healthcare.

“In boot camp, I caught pneumonia; then in the hospital I caught meningitis and was quarantined,” Ingram says. “The dedication of the medical corpsmen was something I’d never seen before. Whatever they had, I wanted.”

Ingram is humble in talking about his corpsman role in Vietnam, even though the events of March 28, 1966, resulted in his earning the Congressional Medal of Honor. Then-Petty Officer Ingram “pushed, pulled, cajoled and doctored” countless Marines who’d been wounded — while receiving at least four wounds of his own, one of which was a life-threatening wound to the head.

“At that point, I really needed to decide what to do. I mean, you can lay there under fi re and die, or you can get up and go. And I decided that the men needed me out there,” he said in a CNN interview after the Medal ceremony at the White House.

Although Ingram doesn’t dwell on his experience, it gives him unique insight into the perspective of veterans re-integrating into civilian jobs after combat. He’s used those lessons many times in his 37-year career with a physician practice allied with Memorial Hospital of Jacksonville.

“It’s difficult because your team members haven’t had the same experiences you have,” he says. “When you hire a former service member, you know that they have self-discipline. They are used to moving quickly and getting things done. They may be impatient with people who don’t have the same discipline.

“Even though most veterans didn’t see the combat conditions that I did, they still may have physical or mental wounds that they don’t talk about. Other people may not understand the way they respond to things.” Colleagues can help by taking time to observe and listen; to learn how the veteran does things and why. “Expressing your support can help, so long as it’s genuine,” Ingram says. “Tell them, ‘I appreciate the way you do this or handle that.’ Notice how they do things. That works for anyone on your team.” And when conflicts or concerns arise, Ingram advises factual, straightforward communication. “Don’t push someone into a corner. Approach conflicts or disagreements face to face, simply presenting the facts. You can say, ‘I appreciate your experience, but I don’t agree on this. I know there’s a way we can work this out together.’ Veterans can adapt, just as other team members can.”

Read more of Ingram’s story here:

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