DANVILLE — Health-care staff at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System have a new type of patient on their hands — one with a heartbeat and blood pressure, but who doesn’t mind being poked and prodded.
These life-like mannequins are part of the new Simulation Education Center, which opened in April. Employees practice on the high-fidelity mannequins, which are capable of portraying patients who are healthy, acutely ill, or chronically ill.
“They’ve come a long way since I was a nurse,” Director Emma Metcalf said on a recent visit to the lab.
The education center is just one of the many improvements at the VA. Illiana also received permission to build two more homes for senior veterans, continued to reach out to recent veterans, redesigned its logo, completed or started building projects and renovations, and won national awards, among other achievements in the past year.
“It’s been a very, very good year,” Metcalf said.
Metcalf, who joined Illiana in March 2012, will start a new job this month with the VA in Lexington, Ky. A search is under way for her replacement.
Training on dummies
The new Simulation Education Center (SEC) provides a learning environment for diagnostic and clinical procedures and is a safe setting to practice critical thinking and communication skills.
There are multiple levels of mannequins or Human Patient Simulators. The local VA has five or six mannequins, with one of those being a SimMan3G, a high-fidelity mannequin that provides the opportunity to practice multiple airway skills, breathing complications, cardiac issues, circulation problems and vascular access, to name a few.
The center also has “Out of OR Airway Management” task trainers to provide practice opportunities for difficult airway management, as well as medium-fidelity mannequins for simpler skills and tasks.
A person sitting at a computer simulates various conditions, which the staff must respond to. Some mannequins are able to breathe, speak, sweat, blink, bleed, convulse, go into cardiac arrest and respond to stimuli. They also produce heartbeats, bowel sounds and blood pressure readings.
Portable cameras videotape participants for debriefing purposes at the conclusion of their scenario. Debriefing includes an open discussion that may include errors and safety concerns leading to the goal of improved clinical practice and improved patient safety.
Illiana received good news last month — approval for two more Green House Project homes for senior veterans and a road, as well as funding for construction.
“I’m so excited about that,” Metcalf said.
The construction contract could be awarded this month or September, with construction starting shortly afterwards.
Illiana also was selected for the 2012 Under Secretary for Health in Excellence in a Community Living Center for its initiative approach with the green house model of care.
Also, the staff worked with Employee Education Service in St. Louis to develop a video that demonstrates the journey from beginning to completion, how it provides a home environment for veterans and how this new model of care could be accomplished. The video was shared with all VA facilities, as Illiana was the first in the VA to do this model of care.
“We wanted to share our journey and experiences with all the VA’s so they can see how this model of care works and provides the home environment for our veterans,” Metcalf said.
The two new homes would join two other 10-bedroom homes, which opened in 2011. They offer private space in a home-like setting for veterans in long-term care.
Another project that’s under way is an apartment complex with 65 units for homeless veterans and their families, as part of the Building Utilization Review & Repurposing.
The developer is applying for grants for the project and needs to secure HUD/VASH (VA Supported Housing) vouchers for apartments. Construction could start late this year or early 2014.
The development will be constructed on the former golf course.
Illiana’s Green Team was nominated as a top-ranked Patient Aligned Care Team division in the country and was selected to participate in a video that will be focused on high performing PACT.
The video was filmed at the Danville campus, and is expected to be released this year. Two other PACT teams were selected — in Russellville, Ark., and the Bronx VA.
A big-screen television set up at the crossroads in Building 104 (HUB/Illiana Times Square) airs around-the-clock educational programs for veterans and visitors.
The addition is getting rave reviews from at least one family.
Donna Hohmann of Oakwood said she was watching one of the videos one day, and it was discussing balance. That led her to realize that her husband, Henry, needed to have his balance evaluated, and they made an appointment.
The videos, submitted by the VA’s Health Promotion Disease Prevention program, discuss a variety of health issues, such as diabetes, blood pressure, stress and eating right.
A café on the second floor of Building 98 was expected to open this month. Called Patriotic Brew, the café has a contract with Starbucks to serve its coffee. It will be open to veterans, visitors and staff.
Outreach continues to be priority within the Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn office.
Illiana treated 2,879 veterans from those eras in FY 12, an increase from 2,663 in Fiscal Year 2011.
The staff made presentations and attended outreach events, including college campuses, health fairs, employment fairs, community briefings, and Illinois National Guard and Reserve events.
As of this fiscal year’s third quarter, Illiana completed 299 care management needs assessments on veterans new to VA, with a cumulative total of 665 OEF/OIF/OND veterans screened this quarter.
In May, 10 members of the Illinois National Guard visited to begin a relationship to help educate their members regarding the services and programs available at Illiana.
One outreach initiative under development is a collaborative endeavor with Camp Lincoln National Guard Unit in Springfield. About three-fourths of the 20,000 guard members from that unit served in combat, making this population eligible for care.
Metcalf said, “It’s about veterans helping other veterans.”
With the aging infrastructure of the campus, renovations have been ongoing. Maintenance of existing buildings can be challenging for engineering staff, Metcalf said.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have projects ready on the shelf,” she said. Illiana competes for funds with 153 other facilities.
Among the projects:
— Renovation of the Social Activities Room and recreation hall is under way, and is expected to be completed early next year.
— The bowling alley is being renovated with a $1.5 million fund donated by John Wright.
— New substation containing the primary electrical switchgear for the whole campus
— New electrical transformer upgrades to several buildings.
— New/renovated outpatient clinic space on second floor of Building 98 for Patient Aligned Care Teams and some specialty care.
— Building 14, one of oldest structures on the campus containing a slate roof, was re-roofed.
— New lab was opened in the women’s clinic on third floor of Building 98.
— Shower and toilet spaces in Mental Health wing of Building 103 are being reconstructed.
— Various sidewalk removal and replacement work throughout the campus, as well as repaving a large parking lot on the southwest side of the campus
— Continuing to work on upgrading Building 58’s HVAC system, as well as renovating and repairing the building’s exterior. The $15.5 million boiler project, which provides the heat and steam for the whole campus, will be completed by the end of the year.
— Halls and walls of the main buildings are being repainted.
— Designs are under way for a new dental clinic in Building 98, a new endoscopy suite in Building 58, a new Community Living Center area in Building 101, and reconstruction of the campus roads.
— Level 4 intensive care unit beds became telemetry beds; the Emergency Department became an Urgent Care Department; and Surgical Services were changed from standard level complexity to ambulatory.
The changes were implemented in April, and continue to be in alignment with current facility capabilities. Veterans will see no changes or impact on them.
Illiana has a partnership with Presence United Samaritans Medical Center to provide services, Metcalf said, adding, “We’re very thankful and excited about that partnership.”
— Three surveyors from the Long Term Care Institute conducted a three-day review of the Community Living Centers and Green Houses in May. Surveyors said staff did a great job demonstrating dedication, compassion and professionalism toward veterans.
— Planetree surveyors visited in May, and invited Illiana to apply for bronze designation. Planetree has a three-tiered designation award program that indicates a facility’s progress toward patient-centered care. Applying for any of these designation levels is by invitation only.
“It says a lot about our facility’s dedication to patient-centered care that we have been invited to apply for the bronze designation,” Metcalf said. “We are very proud of the progress we have made over the past few years and aspire to achieve silver designation within the next 18 months.”
Planetree is a nonprofit patient-centered care group of hospitals and other health care organizations founded by a patient who was frustrated by the impersonal treatment she received.
— Illiana has a new logo and a new theme, “VA Illiana Serves.” Employees submitted idea for new theme, and one was chosen from their input. The medical media staff designed the logo.
— Illiana has expanded its trips to the Indianapolis VA, and each outpatient clinic has transportation to get veterans to Danville.
Metcalf also complimented the VA staff, saying, “We’re only as good as our work force. We’re fortunate to have a creative staff.”
In Fiscal Year 2012:
Patients treated: 33,493
Outpatient visits: 340,266
Budget: more than $200 million
Total employees, including all five outpatient clinics: 1,517 (1,300 in Danville)