Augusta University employees support frontline workers through Paw Pals program

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Non-hospital employees at Augusta University can support health care workers on the front lines by sending encouraging emails and letters through a new Paw Pals program.

No matter which side of the house you’re on, Augusta University is a family. As the fight against COVID-19 wears on, employees on the health system side of the house are experiencing extreme stress, both mentally and physically.

To remind them that the rest of the AU family is behind them, several departments have come together to organize Paw Pals. Through this program, volunteers from the university side will be paired with hospital workers on the health system side. These volunteers will send encouraging emails, letters, etc. to show support.

“At first, when all this happened, there were so many things happening to support our health care heroes. But as caring for patients is continuing and it’s getting more serious, they’re facing some challenges with the emotional toll it’s taking on them at work and personally,” said Gia Johnson, lead special events coordinator for the Office of Protocol and Special Events.

An invitation will be sent out on Aug. 20 inviting university employees to participate. As health care employees’ time for electronic communications may be severely limited, health system employees will be asked personally if they’d like to participate.

“On the hospital side, because the workers are so very busy and they’re not getting time to sit at their computer, Katie Lawhead, patient- and family-centered care coordinator, is going to help us by going to individual department heads and working that way, giving them a card, asking them to sign up to receive words of encouragement,” Johnson said.

“Employees of several units will be invited to participate, with the focus going to units caring for COVID-19 patients, as well as patient transport, radiology, float pool, blue coat ambassadors, employee health, desk operations and labor and delivery. The focus will be broader than just doctors and nurses,” Johnson said.

Then, volunteers will be paired with a health care worker who has signed up to participate.

Johnson said many employees on the university side understand what’s going on in the hospital side, but they don’t really have the ability to be involved in the day-to-day fight. The hope is that, in addition to supporting our health care workers on the front lines and boosting morale, relationships between hospital employees and non-hospital employees will grow organically through these exchanges.

“By doing this small gesture — sending an email, sending a text, maybe a card, maybe sending a gift card for lunch, something like that — we can somehow let them know we support them and create better ties between the health system side and the university side,” Johnson said.

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Written by
Lisa Kaylor

Lisa Kaylor is the Lead Communications and Media Coordinator for AU Health. Contact her to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at 706-721-5292 or

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woman smiling Written by Lisa Kaylor

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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