Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center
In Georgia, Veterans, employees benefit from use of relationship-based care, part 1
July 25, 2017
|The Uptown Campus at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center. CNVAMC has two hospitals, three clinics and 2,500 employees in Georgia and South Carolina|
(Editor’s note: this is part one of a two-part story about how relationship-based care is being put in place at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center.)
AUGUSTA, Ga. (July 25, 2017) -- The last 15 years have been a period of massive change in American health care. New technologies, institutions and care models have changed the ways health care providers interact not just with patients, but with each other.
At Augusta’s Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, existing programs aimed at improving Veterans’ experiences are being expanded by exploring how to develop closer relationships with staff and patients. One of the VA’s programs inaugurated over the last five years is patient-centered care. PCC provides Veterans with a more encouraging recuperative environment, as well as a superior standard of care.
Anna Corulli heads the effort to improve Patient-Centered Care by solving some of the issues that have arisen during its use. According to Corulli, a registered nurse and nurse executive at VA Augusta, the answer lies in relationship-based car. This recently-enacted project acts in concert with PCC to deemphasize task-based health care in favor of more holistic treatment of Veterans.
“Relationship-based care makes PCC a more complete program. It enables it to accomplish its goals. Rather than having that one person in a department who participates and gets really fired up about Patient-Centered Care, it extends that participation to the whole department,” Corulli said
While PCC included training for staff as part of its mandate, its start was delayed by treatment priorities.
“It’s hard sometimes for people who’ve always been used to just enacting policy. You get so task-focused in what we do; because demand on any given day is typically higher than the resources that we can provide,” Corulli said.
Each year, the VA provides care to an increasingly large Veteran population, providing more than 51 million appointments to American Veterans in 2015. At Augusta, that number currently stands at about 44,000 per year.
RBC’s basic unit of administration, called the “unit-based council,” relies on democratic input from providers. Members are elected, voted in by members of their department. According to Corulli, the target is to have 20 percent of the department serving on the council. The council experiments with improving policies to help Charlie Norwood’s staff to engage with and enjoy their workplaces.
'It’s hard sometimes for people who’ve always been used to just enacting policy. You get so task-focused in what we do; because demand on any given day is typically higher than the resources that we can provide.'
Corulli said one of the main poles in the tent is an infrastructure called ‘shared governance,’ found in nursing literature. These small councils operate at the lowest level that makes sense, and are authoritative, deliberative, decision-making bodies that ask certain questions about how their practices function. “How do we receive Veterans? What is it like to be a Veteran in our area? What is our mission vision, and does it align with the decisions we make every day?”
Councils are responsible for planning ways for their departments to overcome obstacles. Council members put forward ideas for improving existing standards of care, eliminating bad practices, and discouraging unhelpful training exercises. Consequently, RBC reinforces PCC by promoting a healthy environment that encourages Veterans to set personal goals towards recovery. RBC also gives staff new tools to facilitate that healing process.
“Where Patient-Centered Care gets most of its impact is in the primary care clinic. Relationship-Based Care finds its impact everywhere.”
Unit-Based Councils have coaches who serve both as promoters for positive growth and mediators against negative influences. Coaches serve as conduits, allowing a good idea to spread through the whole hospital without the need for senior management. Coaches help ensure elected members stay on task with policy suggestions.
Corulli highlighted the importance of keeping councils clear of favoritism, or as the staging ground for conflicts between coworkers.
“It cannot be used as a weapon,” Corulli said, “and coaches have the authority to keep it from being used as such.”
(Story by Mark Karmin, a volunteer staff writer for the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center public affairs office. In the second part of this story, Karmin discusses how important RBC and employees’ self care are to success.)