Inclusive care critical to Ohio

I’ve been working with the U.S. Veterans Affairs Administration (VA) since 1994, when I started as a student nurse at the Salt Lake City Health Care System. From there, I rose to the position of Association Director of Clinical Operations. Following, I served as director of several medical centers and clinics in places ranging from St. Louis, Missouri to Manila, Philippines. I have greatly enjoyed my career serving our nation’s veterans, and though I’ve served for a while, it feels as if I’m still just getting started.

That’s why I’m so encouraged by programs like the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Campaign for Inclusive Care. The goal of this campaign is to train health care providers to incorporate family caregivers into their veteran’s care team, making inclusive care the standard of care across the VA, and hopefully, health care facilities nationwide, including right here in the Buckeye State.

In order to carry out this mission, the campaign first established a regional pilot program that included three Veteran Integrated Service Networks (VISNs). It was my great honor to be appointed as the network director for VISN 10, which oversees 10 VA medical centers, an independent ambulatory care clinic and 63 community-based outpatient clinics across Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan which cumulatively provide care to more than 685,000 veterans.

VISN 10 is one of the three pilot networks to start the Campaign for Inclusive Care. The Campaign is taking a multi-faceted approach to caregiver and health care professional collaboration, providing virtual training opportunities, key resources and more. Thus far, hundreds of VA team members and counting have enrolled in the online Academy for Inclusive Care, many of which are affiliated with VISN 10, and the campaign has conducted over 20 live VA staff trainings. It is estimated that the campaign has impacted hundreds of thousands of caregivers so far.

Additionally, the campaign is paying significant attention to detail, conducting evaluations and assessments to refine the program in order to influence provider knowledge, increase overall participation, and enhance the overall caregiver experience.

I know the important role caregivers can play when they are included in their veterans’ health care. In fact, I often say that we have thousands of additional staff members — our valued caregivers — on our VISN 10 care team. Incorporating caregivers into every step of their veterans’ health care makes them feel more empowered in the important components of their patients’ health care journey and ensures that patients receive the highest quality care whether in a health care setting or at home. I am hopeful that this program — and my role in it — will only help to heal and improve outcomes for veterans, their caregivers and providers.

Following a successful pilot, the VA and Elizabeth Dole Foundation have achieved their ambitious goal and recently announced that the Campaign for Inclusive Care will be expanded VA systemwide, and I look forward to continuing this important work with VA leaders around the country.

In these challenging times, it is more important than ever to ensure our nation’s heroes — our veterans — receive the inclusive health care to which they are entitled. I am proud to be a leader within the Campaign for Inclusive Care, and I look forward to watching the ways in which it improves our VA services across VISN 10 and beyond.

Rima Ann O. Nelson is the VISN 10 Network Director for the VA Healthcare system serving Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan.



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