South Texas VA Nursing holds first tele-Town Hall - South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS)
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South Texas VA Nursing holds first tele-Town Hall

An image of a computer screen with data on it.

The group of nurses in attendance of the first-ever nursing service tele town hall, affix their eyes to the polling data that is streaming in real time. The service used several polling questions to gauge how successful communication has been throughout the service.

By Steven Goetsch
Tuesday, September 24, 2019

With almost 1,500 strong in the South Texas VA Nursing Service, you can’t fit them all in a conference room if you want to provide information, so you do the next best thing…you call them.

Nursing executive leadership arranged its first-ever tele town hall September 19 so management could share the vision of the service for 2020, the Journey as a High Reliability Organization (HRO), and the progress on the Pathway to Excellence (PTE).

Most of the nursing service received a phone call with a personal invite to join the townhall from Mrs. Valerie Rodriguez-Yu, Associate Director for Patient Care Services.

At the highest point, 227 nurses stayed tuned-in to hear the updates and a chance to address any issues they were having with their units.

The issues covered a wide range of topics from RN nursing degree scholarships, to the implementation of PTE culture throughout the Home-Based Care section and several others.

A woman is looking right toward a large computer screen.

Valerie Rodriguez-Yu, South Texas VA Associate Director of Patient Care Services, reads the town hall dashboard. In addition to getting questions from the field, Rodriguez-Yu monitored her polling questions. One of those questions asked callers if they thought the telephone version of the town hall was effective. Eighty seven percent of respondents agreed.

Rodriguez-Yu, who invoked the HRO principle, “deference to expertise,” had by her side, the rest of the nursing executive leadership team, and most of the nurse managers and program leads to provide the best responses.

One response she was excited to take herself was a question about when the outlying clinics should be immersed in PTE culture. Rodriguez-Yu wasted no time.

“Now, right now, that is exactly why we are doing this [town hall.]” Rodriguez-Yu exclaimed. “But now is the time, we are going to hug you, embrace you, and bring you in,” she added. Speaking about those outlying clinics and Kerrville which do not currently hold the PTE designation like the main hospital.

Rodriguez-Yu told the caller and the few hundred on the line that they should start seeing more involvement and more engagement.

Several more questions came in on a variety of topics like work schedules, nursing degree scholarship opportunities and the implementation of new programs or policies on their respective units.

She reassured another caller about the importance of follow through when a nurse gets pushback from her colleagues or nurse manager. “If it’s something that is really positive, but creates more work for your peers, sometimes there might be resistance,” Rodriguez-Yu said. “We have to figure out, how do you shape that, so that the Veteran is at the center of everything that you are doing.”

Rodriguez-Yu affirmed to the callers that although not every proposition can be implemented due to policy or process, she has charged all her leadership team to close the loop and explain why something cannot be done, rather than a simple no.

A woman is entering information into a database.

South Texas VA employee Taylor Ivey volunteered to be a "collector" for the first-ever nursing tele town hall. It was Ivey's job to take callers questions and load them into the system so they could be viewed by nursing leadership.

In between calls, nursing service used the town hall to gauge their communication efforts through a series of polling questions.

One of the first questions was the level of understanding of the PTE journey. 94 percent of respondents were aware of PTE. That pleased the nurse managers who were fixated on the data pouring in, in real time.

The HRO program was not as evident to South Texas nurses as only 77 percent were aware that their organization was selected to lead the VA in this new initiative of patient safety.

The polling went the duration of the town hall, asking questions related to HRO, PTE and other current and relevant topics.

Toward the end of the town hall, the Deputy Associate Director for Patient Care Services, Ms. Yolanda, Ruiz-Isales, reminded the nurses why they are special. “Thank you for the work you do each day to take care of our Nation’s heroes,” Ruiz-Isales said. “Your commitment to excellence is reflected in Audie achieving ‘Pathway to Excellence’ designation, the first VA in Texas to do so.”

The town hall ended with the nursing executive leadership reminding the service of one of the basic tenets of a PTE organization…staff engagement. “I take this opportunity to remind you that both Mrs. Rodriguez-Yu and I hold open office hours,” Ruiz-Isales said. “This is available to all staff without appointment.” These office hours are on specific dates and times.

One of the last questions of the night came in the form of a poll and asked respondents if they felt the town hall format was effective. 85 percent said it was and that they received the information they needed.



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