Getting Veterans more involved in their health care is a major focus at the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa. Tampa VA employees Dr. Kathryn Corrigan and Connie Malik established a Veteran Input Team with a goal to increase Veterans' participation in their care while improving their overall satisfaction by at least five percent.
Staff members Debbie Gottardi and Elaine Cohen led the Veteran Input Team chartered to develop new ways to get Veterans involved. The team went full speed ahead—providing focus group facilitator training and publishing guidelines for establishing and operating Veteran focus groups.
Getting Veteran feedback was important to making change really happen. Tampa's Women Veterans Program hopped on board first to gather the opinions of a highly influential group—women Veterans—and there are lots of them at the sprawling Tampa VA hospital. As the fastest growing group in the Veteran population, women are signing up and using VA healthcare services more than ever before. On average, these women are younger and need different services than their male counterparts.
Seven women Veterans who served during OEF/OIF operations offered their thoughts during a focus group hosted at the hospital on May 12. The conversation was lively—and candid—during the nearly two-hour session.
One universal frustration echoed by the women Veterans was they are generally not acknowledged as a Veteran. Often, they said, VA staff and male Veterans mistakenly assume them to be a Veteran's girlfriend or a family member.
In the end, the group provided valuable feedback about current programs as well as thoughtful ideas for future ones. As a result, several new programs are now being designed at the VA Hospital to highlight women Veterans and the contributions they've made while serving their country.
The next time you see a women Veteran in the hallway or sitting in the waiting room, don't forget to thank her for her service to her country. She deserves it.
Meanwhile, we'll be hosting more focus group meetings for Veterans in the near future and would like to hear from you. If you're a Veteran and would like to participate, contact Steve Preston, OEF/OIF Transition Coordinator at (813) 972-2000, ext. 6173 or Pam Smith-Beatty, Women Veterans Program Manager at (813) 972-2000, ext. 6695.