VA Seeks Innovators to Find Solutions to Tough Health Care Challenges

VA Seeks Innovators to Find Solutions to Tough Health Care Challenges

If you like innovation, you’ll love working at VA. We have adopted and continually promote a culture of innovation among our team. One of the ways we do this is by encouraging employee-developed and implemented innovations and promising practices that lead to better care and services for our nation’s Veterans.

This culture of innovation was recently celebrated at the virtual VHA Innovation Experience (iEX) annual conference organized by the VHA Innovation Ecosystem. It’s just one example of the many initiatives championed by VA to improve health care services and delivery.

The iEX conference showcased solutions and practices created by employees and honored top innovators with an Innovator of the Year Award and VHA Innovators Network (iNET) Awards.

Eighteen employee innovators from the iNET Spark-Seed-Spread Innovation Investment Program participated in iEX demonstrations. These frontline employees designed innovative products or programs over the past year, while being trained in innovation-related competencies. The event also featured 15 Diffusion of Excellence Shark Tank competition finalists who pitched their promising, evidence-based practices to tough health care challenges. These solutions were presented to VA leaders, or “sharks,” interested in replicating these practices at their facilities.

From the Army to VA nurse and employee innovator

Terri Ohlinger, a Cincinnati VA Medical Center (VAMC) nurse, has been creating health solutions for her patients throughout her 30-year nursing career. She developed a sense of resourcefulness while serving in the Army, caring for her fellow soldiers. That ingenuity followed Ohlinger to VA – it’s how she approaches caring for her fellow Veterans. Luckily, the Cincinnati VAMC is part of iNET. Her latest quest is called “Drop Ease.”

Ohlinger developed the Drop Ease device to measure eye drops efficiently while making it easy enough for all Veterans to use.

“Too many patients were not performing their eye drop treatment regimens because the bottle was too hard to squeeze, potentially leading to poor outcomes,” said Ohlinger. “They were also using too many drops with each dose and needed to reorder drops more frequently, resulting in increased costs.”

Since iNET connects and partners with academia, nonprofit companies and the private sector,  Ohlinger was able to get in touch with Quality Life Plus (QL+), a nonprofit focused on fostering and generating innovations that aid and improve the quality of life for those who have served. The company teamed engineering students from the University of Cincinnati with Ohlinger to work on prototyping Drop Ease as part of their senior project.

Empowering employees and Veterans

iNET allows VA employees to innovate and succeed. Its success isn’t based solely on the final innovative solution design or its implementation. Rather, it is measured by the sense of empowerment the employee innovator gets from participating in iNET.

What does it mean to be part of iNET? “That I am being heard,” Ohlinger said. “More importantly, [that] the Veterans are being heard. I asked what the problem was and then strived to find the answer – and then took it back to the Vets so they could tell me how to make it better.”

It is because of the passion and drive of innovators like Ohlinger that VA delivers the best care anywhere.

Work at VA

VA is always looking for talented innovators who want to make a difference in the lives of Veterans. See if a VA career is right for you:

VA Seeks Innovators to Find Solutions to Tough Health Care Challenges

Fellows Program Offers Post-Grads Path to a VA Career

Are you ready to launch a career with your advanced degree? Are you interested in public leadership and helping Veterans? If you answered yes to these questions, take a look at VA’s prestigious Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program.

We use the PMF program to attract talented candidates and turn them into talented leaders. After two years, fellows may be able to convert their fellowship opportunity into a full-time position at VA, which helps us grow the pool of exceptional talent serving our nation’s Veterans. The program is a win-win.

Throughout the program, we provide fellows with the training and development opportunities they need to become effective change leaders, including a senior-level mentor. Fellows may create an individual development plan for their program, network with other fellows and contribute to VA’s larger mission.

“While working on my master’s in social work, I knew I wanted to be in an environment where my job would be meaningful and the mission would align with social work’s values,” said PMF fellow Sarah Leder. “My position in the Office of Community Care within the Veterans Health Administration allows me to do that by working on implementing policies to connect Veterans and their families with the health-related help they need.”

Pathways for students

To be eligible for a fellowship, you must be completing, or have completed, a qualifying advanced degree — a master’s, law or doctoral program — within the past two years. You also must complete a rigorous selection process that assesses writing, interpersonal, analytic and leadership skills.

We are always seeking highly qualified candidates to join our workforce and offer many different internship, trainee, fellowship and residency programs for prospective employees to explore. The PMF program is one of three programs in VA Pathways, which aims to recruit talented students and graduates for potential VA careers.

“I encourage anyone passionate about policy and motivated by public service to apply to the PMF program,” said Vanessa Studer, a second-year fellow. “The PMF program provides an accelerated pathway to immerse oneself in the inner workings of the federal government and be an agent of change.”

Benefits abound

In addition to the opportunity to serve our nation’s heroes, VA employees enjoy many other benefits, including  generous time off, a robust federal retirement plan and a wide selection of comprehensive health insurance plans. Other perks that come with choosing a VA career include:

  • Flexible work schedules and shifts.
  • Diversity and inclusion policies and programs.
  • Continuing leadership and other professional development opportunities and mentoring programs.

If you are interested in learning more about the PMF program — or in hiring a PMF Fellow — please visit VA’s PMF program page or email pathways@va.gov.

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VA wants talented students and trainees to work at VA. See if a VA career is right for you.

VA Seeks Innovators to Find Solutions to Tough Health Care Challenges

VA Adds Tens of Thousands of New Jobs, Remote Options

Even during challenging economic times, VA has added to its workforce and is poised to continue growing, according to Jessica Bonjorni, chief officer of human capital management at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Bonjorni recently joined Mike Owens, VHA marketing specialist, for “Talk About It Tuesday,” a weekly broadcast on LinkedIn.

VHA’s workforce grew by 4% over last year, during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic caused layoffs, furloughs, and salary reductions in private sector health care.

“If you think about the size of our workforce, just to grow by 4%, we have to hire tens of thousands of people annually just to keep pace,” Bonjorni said. “Veterans are continuing to rely on VA more and more for their care, so we’re going to keep growing.”

The pandemic has also forced employers to adjust how and where work gets done. VA has risen to the challenge, expanding telework and providing more support for working parents, Bonjorni said. She predicts a larger portion of the VA workforce will continue working remotely in the future.

“It’s going to expand our ability to think more broadly about how our workforce is structured geographically. COVID has really forced us to push the boundaries on what kind of work can be done remotely,” she said.

Bonjorni also discussed:

  • Types of positions that are in high demand.
  • Skills that VA is seeking.
  • Diversity of the VA workforce.
  • Expanded commitment to telehealth.

In her current role, Bonjorni has a wide set of responsibilities that involve all aspects of human resources, including hiring, workforce management, leadership development, training and organizational development.

“[I’m] really making sure that we’re managing our workforce and bringing in the next generation of the workforce that we need in order to serve Veterans at VA,” Bonjorni said.

The mission of serving Veterans, while being personally challenged in a leadership role, is what brought Bonjorni to VA almost five years ago.

“No day is the same as the day before. We really get to challenge ourselves in a new way every day,” she added.

You can catch the next “Talk About It Tuesday” broadcast on VA’s LinkedIn page every Tuesday at 12pm ET. Subjects range from career advice and resume tips to insights on VA culture. Feel free to leave a comment on the live feed and join the conversation!

Work at VA

If you’re looking for a clinical or non-clinical health career, consider VA. Positions are open across the nation in all capacities in more than 1,200 facilities.

VA Seeks Innovators to Find Solutions to Tough Health Care Challenges

Picture a Bright Future as a VA Diagnostic Radiologic Technician

There are more than 9 million Veterans being cared for by VA. That adds up to a lot of X-rays, ultrasounds, CAT scans, and MRIs performed each year at more than 1,200 facilities across the nation.

None of these vital tests would be possible without our hardworking diagnostic radiologic technicians. With the assistance of these important members of the VA team, we’re able to diagnose disease in its earliest stages, monitor the progress of treatment, and help Veterans lead longer, healthier lives.

Help Care for Veterans

If you have experience in health care imaging, consider bringing your skills to VA, the nation’s largest integrated health care system.

We employ diagnostic radiologic technicians all over the country – from the sandy beaches of Hawaii to the rural fields of the Midwest to the bustling city of New York – so there’s sure to be a job opening near where you live or where you’d like to go.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the radiologic technician field is projected to grow faster than the average occupation, increasing by about 7% over the next decade as the population ages and demand for testing rises.

At VA, you’ll be able to work on the forefront of your field, alongside colleagues who share your commitment to excellence and your dedication to serving Veterans.

We are always looking for new and innovative ways to bring the best care to those who have bravely served our country. At our first 5G enabled medical center in Palo Alto, we’re now able to turn CT and MRI scans into 3D images that can be projected on the patient’s body to improve precision and speed of surgeries.

Enjoy excellent benefits

When it comes to benefits, VA’s offerings far outpace the private sector. They include:

  • A competitive starting salary. You’ll enjoy a strong initial salary based on education, training and experience. At VA, you can count on steady growth with periodic pay raises and other rewards for all your hard work and dedication.
  • A commitment to work/life balance. From offering flexible scheduling to generous leave plans, we want to make sure our employees are happy and fulfilled.
  • Continuing education support. We offer a broad range of scholarships, tuition reimbursement and loan repayment programs, and other educational opportunities to help you in your lifelong quest for learning.
  • Robust health insurance and retirement plans. Take care of your health and your family with a range of health insurance plans, including vision and dental. Protect your future with our three-tier retirement plan, life insurance and long-term care insurance.

Work at VA

Ready to pursue a career in radiology at VA? Discover a rewarding new opportunity and apply today.

  • EXPLORE diagnostic radiologic technician openings.
  • READ about the benefits of a VA career.
  • LEARN more about how to apply for a VA position.
4 Ways the VA is Improving Access to Care

4 Ways the VA is Improving Access to Care

The VA focuses on making it easier for veterans to see their doctors and get to their medical appointments year after year. Not only does this result in better health for millions of America’s heroes, but it improves the working environment for employees across the nation.

Here are four ways that VA has been working to improve access to care in 2020:

 1. Expanding and investing in telehealth

The VA is on track to set an agency record for telehealth care this year. Prior to COVID-19, VA had a robust telehealth system in place. Nearly two-thirds of our primary care and mental health providers had seen patients over video. Because of this, we were able to quickly ramp up our telehealth capabilities to meet increased demand.

In the first half of 2020, Veterans attended about 25,000 telehealth video appointments each day, a 1,000% increase from the previous year. As of July, we had already surpassed the number of telehealth encounters in 2019 by 7 million.

Telehealth is especially beneficial for Veterans who find it difficult to travel or those who live in rural areas far from care centers.

“VA is committed to offering Veterans the health care they deserve, whenever and wherever they need it,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in November 2019.

2. Tracking access to care data

We’re keeping an eye on the numbers all the time, including maintaining a website that shows how quickly Veterans can expect to be seen, satisfaction with care, comparisons between facilities and more.

Our data-driven approach first started out by looking at wait times, but we’ve cast a wider net.

In a recent roundtable discussion, participants agreed that other important metrics to focus on include coordination and continuity of care, quality of care, compassion of care, and whether their needs were met in a timely manner.

“It’s fair to say that VHA is a leader in assuring timely access to care through a coordinated combination of virtual and in-person care,” said roundtable participant Susan Kirsh, M.D., VA’s acting assistant deputy under secretary for health for access to care.

3. Offering transportation to VA facilities

It can be hard for some Veterans to travel to their appointments due to age, illness, disability or location.

The Veterans Transportation Service (VTS) can provide transportation at little to no cost to many Veterans who cannot get to their appointments on their own.

VTS has established a network of transportation options in 47 states and Puerto Rico through joint efforts with VA’s Office of Rural Health and other organizations.

4. Focusing on groups with increased access to care issues

Veterans are a diverse group, and some have a harder time accessing care than others. We are working to meet the unique health care needs of several groups of Veterans through specific programs aimed at studying, understanding and improving their care.

Since women are the fastest growing Veteran group, we have created the Women Veterans Health Program that focuses on issues like comprehensive primary care, reproductive health and women’s health education. Designated women’s health providers coordinate care for female Veterans to ensure they receive equitable, timely care from a single primary care provider.

Other specialized programs have been developed for caregivers, combat Veterans, homeless Veterans, returning service members, rural Veterans, and seniors and aging Veterans.

Work at VA

Consider a career at a health care system that’s committed to providing easy access to patients.

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