Phoenix VA Director RimaAnn Nelson recently participated in a 45-minute podcast through Heroes Media Group. The radio show, called Front and Center USA, is featured on Facebook and iTunes. You can access the podcast here or listen below via Podbean.
Hosts David Lucier, a former Special Forces operator and member of the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame, and Joe Brett, former Army first lieutenant, together produce topical podcasts recorded at Arizona State University.
Nelson was invited earlier this year to participate in the interview and was excited to have an opportunity for open discussion with Lucier and Brett about the Phoenix VA Healthcare System.
The interview started with Nelson giving her VA history, how she started as an oncology nurse more than 22 years ago, which led to leadership roles in St. Louis, Manila, and now Phoenix.
“My father was in the Peace Corps and stationed in the Philippines where he met my mother,” said Nelson. “So a career in public service was something that was instilled in me at a young age.”
Discussion focused on the increase of patients such as the Phoenix “snowbirds” and how the facility prepares for those increases. Nelson stated that from 2015-2016 over 4,000 more Veterans were seeking care at the Phoenix VA.
“We currently just opened two new clinics in the Southwest Valley and one in the heart of Phoenix to help with capacity,” said Nelson. “We also use telehealth options. The clinic in Gilbert, in fact, offers tele-derm appointments which have been quite successful.”
Care outside VA walls was discussed as well.
“In FY16, we purchased $142 million of care in the community for our Veterans – an increase of around $38 million from the prior year,” said Nelson. “We continue to build our partnership in order to be able to provide the best medical care we can for our Veterans, whether it’s within the VA or outside in the community.”
One question focused on Phoenix VA pulling best practices from other VA medical centers. Nelson highlighted a challenge the Phoenix VA had with a backlog of sleep study reviews. By pulling in support from VA providers at the Alaska VA Healthcare System, they were able to electronically review the sleep study cases and help bring the backlog down at Phoenix VA.
“This is a best practice that will now be used at other VA medical centers.”
The scope and complexity of the VA system is certainly evident from that example said the host.
Nelson talked often about the staff at her facility stating “they have been through a lot the last few years. The level and the quality of work that is performed by our more than 3,400 employees is significant, but we have to continue to stay the course and keep focused,” said Nelson. “Our Veterans deserve no less.”
With one minute left, the hosts asked if Nelson wanted to leave the audience with any final thoughts. Nelson reiterated that the Phoenix VA Health Care System has a committed group of employees to serve Phoenix veterans and address their concerns at all times.
“And to our Vietnam veterans we like to welcome you home.”
Jessica B. Jacobsen is the director of the Dallas Regional Office of Public Affairs where she provides support and counsel to VA facility directors and public affairs officers within a seven-state southwestern region.