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VA facility grabs top patient award

Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain

U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Jennifer Nylander (left) is having her blood drawn by LPN Wendy Schuster at the Marquette VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic located on 1414 West Fair Street. The Marquette VA Clinic is part of the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center of Iron Mountain, who recently received the 2019 Best Experience Award for patient and employee experience. (Photo courtesy of Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center)

MARQUETTE — Out of the 170 VA medical centers across the United States, the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain recently received recognition as one of eight top performers for patient and employee experience.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veteran Experience Office awarded the Oscar. G. Johnson VA Medical Center with the 2019 Best Experience Award for level three facilities during Thursday’s virtual Veterans Patient Experience Symposium. This marks the second consecutive year the VA medical center has received this award.

Based on the results of the veteran and employee experience survey, the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center was selected as a nominee for the award. Veterans are given an opportunity to fill out the survey by mail or email each time they interact with the center’s staff; employees also take part in the survey every year. Though the award has only been established since 2018, the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center has constantly been rated in the top 10 by its veteran patients and employees, Veteran Experience Specialist Tim Ellison said.

“This award is really a celebration of the hard work and dedication that our employees and volunteers perform every day,” Ellison said. “What makes this so meaningful is that the collective voice of the veterans we serve is what won it for us.”

The finalists for the Best Experience Award were critiqued on “leadership, culture, listening to the voice of the veteran, patient communications, employee engagement, environment and measurement and improvement,” according to a news release.

“We adapt well to challenges. We cover about 26,000 square miles of the U.P. and Northern Wisconsin, that comes with a lot of challenges. We use employee innovations and capitalize on existing technologies to meet the needs of all our veterans and give them world-class health care even in the most rural locations,” he noted.

While maintaining a high level of patient care, the center also focuses on engaging its employees through monthly employee focus groups, leadership training and mentoring, veteran-centric training for employees, employee-initiated improvement projects and recognizing achievements, the press release states.

Receiving this award is a way to congratulate the VA medical center team on what they’re doing well and to reassure them that their efforts are not going unnoticed, Ellison added.

“Our staff really take pride in the mission and we are in small communities. This really drives the culture here, not only are we taking care of our nation’s heroes, but we are also taking care of our neighbors,” Ellison said. “You see this mentality in all aspects of our clinics; our staff consistently do more than they are asked to make sure they are taking care of the veterans.”

Upon receiving the 2019 Best Experience Award during the symposium, the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center also accepted the Patient Experience Innovation Award for Best Process Improvement. This award was voted nationally and given for increasing the level of inpatient veteran satisfaction for the quietness of the facility.

Jackie Jahfetson can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is jjahfetson@miningjournal.net.

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