Iron Mountain VA wins national award

Dr. Richard Stone, right, executive in charge with the federal Veterans Health Administration, presents Jim Rice, left, director at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center, with the 2018 Best Experience Award for small, low-complexity level facilities. Also shown is Dr. Lynda Davis, chief of the Veterans Experience Office, far right.

IRON MOUNTAIN — The VA’s Veterans Health Administration has recognized the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center for providing its patients with outstanding health care experiences.

The Iron Mountain-based VA hospital received the 2018 Best Experience Award for Level 3 — small, low complexity — facilities at the Veterans Patient Experience Symposium Feb. 5-7 in Washington, D.C.

“This award would not be possible without the commitment of our staff, volunteers, stakeholders, and community health care partners,” said Jim Rice, medical center director, who attended the symposium and was on hand to receive the award.

The Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center was among 12 VA Medical Centers selected as finalists for the award for being recognized as top performers in patient experience and employee experience. The award was given to one facility in each of the three complexity levels and one facility overall. The other winners were Sioux Falls, S.D. VAMC for Level 2; Cleveland, Ohio, VAMC for Level 1; and Ashville, N.C., for VAMC overall.

The finalists for the Best Experience Award were judged on leadership, culture, listening to the voice of the veteran, patient communications, employee engagement, environment and measurement and improvement.

The Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center was ranked second in the nation for patient satisfaction at the end of 2018 and has consistently ranked among eight VA hospitals in the top 10 percent of all VA hospitals in terms of patient satisfaction since 2012. It was also ranked first for both employee satisfaction and best place to work in the Veterans Health Administration based on the VA’s 2018 All Employee Survey.

“Our employees feel passionate about serving veterans,” Rice said. “They are committed and accountable to the organization and each other, and are empowered by leadership to put discretionary effort into their work.”

Rice cited some of the many actions taken at the medical center that has propelled the positive experience of both Veterans and employees. These include conducting 32 Veteran Town Halls in 30 different locations in 2018 throughout the Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin, using email surveys for immediate feedback and service recovery, continuing the Butterfly Wish Program for hospice patients, and focusing on cleanliness and modernization, the scores for the former ranking the medical center first in the nation.

The medical center also focuses on engaging the employees through monthly employee focus groups, leadership training and mentoring, veteran-centric training for employees, employee initiated improvement projects and recognizing achievements.

“We have found that an engaged workforce leads to better patient outcomes and experience,” Rice said.