Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ - Champion Spotlight Series - Orlando VA Health Care System 4419

Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ - Champion Spotlight Series - Orlando VA Health Care System


Orlando VA Health Care System embraces innovation and wellness

518aa225026cf9db963d3250da317da9-huge-vaWe are pleased to shine the spotlight on Orlando VA Health Care System (OVAHCS).

When most people think of innovation, they imagine advanced, flashy, or complicated ideas. But nurses at OVAHCS know that even small and unassuming innovations can be powerful, too.

“Everyone thinks of innovation as cutting-edge ideas that are big and dramatic,” says Candace McNulty, MSN, RN, float pool and screening nurse manager at OVAHCS. “But sometimes we lose sight of how little changes can add up. They can impact our everyday and our ability to provide meaningful care.”

Candace’s approach to innovation is not uncommon at OVAHCS, which is part of the Veterans Health Association (VHA) Innovators Network (iNET). The culture at OVAHCS is one of employee-driven innovation — executive leadership encourages frontline employees to come forward with ideas, programs, and solutions to daily challenges. That encouragement, and the support of their Innovation and Improvement Team, led Candace to design and pilot an innovative wellness program that’s changing the work environment for nurses at OVAHCS.

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Candace’s program, “Fit a Bit of Wellness,” stemmed from her experience on the frontline and her observations as a nurse supervisor. The VHA offers Whole Health programs for employees and patients that provide organized opportunities to practice wellness. But Candace saw a disconnect between the needs of the frontline staff and their ability to participate in the wellness events offered.

“I began my career at the bedside, so I understand the complexities of nursing and working in acute care,” Candace says. “I wanted to see how, as a supervisor, I can help provide wellness moments for my staff by meeting them where they are.”

Candace worked closely with the OVAHCS innovation specialist to outline elements of the program, including:
  • A Wellness Peer Leader who completed mind-body skills training and dedicates 4 hours per month to coordinating wellness opportunities and encouraging team engagement
  • Whole health tools and equipment, including items for relaxation (such as handheld massagers, a tea kettle, aromatherapy, and coloring supplies) and fitness (yoga mats, treadmill desk, strengthening bands, and a rolling television that plays 10-minute workout videos)
  • Wearable fitness devices to encourage fitness, mindfulness, and group exercise challenges
  • Quarterly education and wellness days that include 8 hours of protected time for each employee so they can attend the events and classes
  • A team data dashboard, which highlights the team’s wellness achievements to motivate the team and instill a sense of unity and pride

“Bringing all of these things together is what creates the culture of wellness,” Candace says. “It can’t just be having a leader talking about wellness or handing someone a Fitbit and hoping that it teaches them how to handle stress and secondary trauma. You need to have all the tools in your toolbox and a comprehensive plan in place.”

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“Fit a Bit of Wellness” recently concluded its year-long pilot — a period used to test the program with a small group to provide proof of its success. In this case, the program was tested on the Float Pool, a team of nurses who provide support for the hospital’s short-staffed units and provide care for various patients.

Candace measured the program’s success in two ways:

Participants’ perception
OVAHCS nurses answered a survey before and after the pilot period. Before the program’s implementation, 44% of OVAHCS Float Pool nurses believed their medical center was committed to their health and wellness.

Since the pilot, 96% of participants feel that OVAHCS supports their wellness. A survey of all OVAHCS employees revealed that 90% of Float Pool staff feel it is the best place to work, compared to the VA national employee average of 68%.

              Measurable data     c141e830db766d87148a0533d2918cf8-huge-va
A group of 50 float nurses volunteered to use a wearable device and have their anonymous data analyzed. Candace monitored the aggregate data collected by the devices to measure:
  • Resting heart rate
  • Sleep
  • Steps and physical activity
  • Use of the meditation app

After 90 days, the group improved their resting heart rate and increased the time they spent being active and practicing meditation. The only area still needing improvement is sleep.

“The fact that we've taken our time, energy, and money to invest in these nurses — even though it's something small — made them feel special, and they deserve that,” Candace says. “These nurses see that we've invested in them, and now they are investing in themselves by prioritizing wellness.”

Empowering Nurses and Frontline Employees to Embrace Innovation
Candace’s “Fit a Bit of Wellness” program is just one example of employee-driven innovation at OVAHCS. And there are more than 35 other iNET sites across the country.

OVAHCS employees hoping to receive funding through iNET follow a strict procedure. They:
  • Work closely with an innovation specialist to iron out the details of their idea
  • Create a spending plan and outline their budget
  • Present a 3-minute pitch to a panel that includes executive leadership and a veteran representative
  • Answer the panel’s questions about the proposal

The VHA celebrates innovation in all forms. They showcase successful innovations on their Diffusion Marketplace and encourage VHA locations nationwide to adopt these proven ideas, practices, and programs. To date, OVAHCS has created 6 innovations and adopted 35 innovations created by other iNET sites. Two other VHA locations are in the process of adopting Candace’s “Fit a Bit of Wellness” program.

“The Innovators Network empowers frontline people to make changes and come up with new ideas and ways of doing things,” Candace says. “And that’s the thing about innovation. There’s no bad idea. If you foster and facilitate an environment where every idea is welcome, the ideas feed off each other and can morph into a successful innovation.”

What does your organization do to promote nurse well-being? Share with us in our discussion.


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Blog Champion Spotlight 04/03/2023 10:06am CDT

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