On November 8, the Providence VA Medical Center held its annual Veterans Day Observance in recognition of Veterans past and present. The keynote speaker for the Ceremony was Major General Kevin McBride (Commanding General, Rhode Island National Guard & Adjutant General for the State of Rhode Island).
The theme for this year's Ceremony was patient-centered care to include the importance of building military cultural competency. Vincent Ng, Medical Center Director, noted that Veterans Day is a time to honor those who are serving (and have served) in our armed forces and that countless cities and town throughout the country would be doing just that. While acknowledging these events as "a fitting expression of gratitude for all those who have served, past and present..." he added that "we must do more to honor our Veterans." He highlighted two initiatives at the Providence VAMC where we are doing just that--our journey towards Patient-Centered Care and by building military cultural competency.
Patient-centered care is about focusing on the whole patient--not just treating a disease but on promoting prevention and well-being. Patient-centered care is about honoring the Veteran's wishes by making him or her "Captain of the Team" who makes the necessary choices that influence his/her health and well-being.
Mr.. Ng described several great strides we've made towards a patient-centered culture. For example:
• Valet parking, golf cart shuttles in our parking lots, as well as blue lights in all parking lots for emergencies
• A Memorial Garden to honor the five branches of service and a Meditation Garden
• Technology such as Telehealth and My HealtheVet to provide our Veterans with the right care, at the right place, and at the right time
• Improving meal choices for our outpatient chemotherapy and same-day surgery patients
• Reduced overhead paging to provide a quieter environment for our inpatients
• Alternative healing therapies such as Yoga, Tai Chi, music therapy, pet therapy, and horticulture therapy
• Finally, our Primary Care Team has just been awarded a regional award to recognize their work in providing our Veterans with patient-centered care.
Regarding building a military cultural competency, Mr.. Ng explained that the goal is to ensure our staff and providers have a clear understanding of the Veterans we serve so we can, in turn, be more sensitive in addressing their healthcare needs. Some results of our efforts to date are as follows:
• Establishing a nationally-recognized OEF/OIF/OND Clinic and offering evening hours and post-deployment health reassessments at the Providence VAMC
• Hiring of additional mental health staff as well as expanded clinical hours to improve access to mental health services, especially in the areas of crisis prevention, military sexual trauma, and substance misuse
• Establishing a robust homeless clinic/outreach program, providing wrap-around service with a housing-first focus
• Hiring of a part-time GYN provider who, along with our Women Veterans Program Manager, is helping us provide top-notch medical care and services to our women Veterans
Major General McBride, during his keynote presentation, pointed out that less than one percent of the U.S. population serves in the military today. "We're an all-volunteer force," he added. "And all of them have endorsed a blank check payable up to the value of their lives." In emphasizing the importance of appreciating contemporary military culture, MG McBride stated that today's military is unlike the military of years past in that it is truly reflective of the society it serves. Women Veterans, for example, are now serving is just about every career field. Also, many of the Reservists are first responders in the community--police officers, fire fighters; they occupy just about every white collar and blue collar profession. These experiences add a new dimension to combat when they are serving on active duty.
Participating in the Ceremony were the Coventry High School Junior ROTC, Michael Jackson (Rhode Island State Director Bugles Across America), as well as representatives from local Veterans Service Organizations and local congressional offices. The master of ceremonies for the event was Donna Russillo, Chief of Voluntary Service.