By Mark Walker

Red Cross volunteers Don Long and Joe McNellis are used to ferrying patients around Madigan Army Medical Center, and having to return to their office for their next assignment.

No more. 

The two Patient Escort Team volunteers and three other members have been outfitted with mobile communication devices in order to respond quickly, rather than having to traipse back to their office in the sprawling Tacoma-area hospital.

“It really helps us get to our next request as soon as possible,” McNellis said.

The hands-free “Vocera Smartbadge” devices are akin to a modern-day walkie-talkie, but with added features such as the ability to make calls, store numbers and be in contact with hospital staff from anywhere within its wireless network.

close-up of the Vocera Smartbadge

“We get about 100 requests per month to move patients or escort family members,” said Moira E. Neal, regional program specialist for the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces for the Northwest region.

The Smartbadges, that cost close to $600 each, were provided to the Red Cross by the hospital.

“They’re pretty impressive,” said Neal, who helped introduce the volunteers to the devices in early August.

McNellis, who began his volunteer work at Madigan in February, said he’s quickly learning all the Smartbadge’s capabilities. 

“Anything that can make our tasks a little easier Is great,” he said. “But for me, it’s just really an honor to be able to serve.”

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