Innovation Revolutionary is a regular series from the VA Innovation Ecosystem. The series focuses on VA employees who are disrupting the status-quo, breaking down barriers, and attempting to radically revolutionize Veteran care and employee experience.
Although VA provides perinatal care services to Veterans, the services are provided in the community rather than VA facilities. This means Veterans may have to travel to numerous locations to receive treatments related to prenatal through postpartum or perinatal needs.
Melissa Tran, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Orlando VA experienced her own questions and concerns during pregnancy. “I knew I couldn’t be the only one who felt lost navigating my pregnancy and postpartum period,” she said.
After reading a blog post about Kim Bielicki, an Orlando VA innovation specialist, Tran and five of her teammates began asking questions. Logging into an open forum to get answers, their program began to form.
One stop shop for care
Working together, Tran and her team developed a vision for a comprehensive perinatal care program, called PREPARe, where Veterans could come to one place for many of their care needs. Selected by VA to receive funding, PREPARe began to rapidly accelerate.
“I couldn’t be the only one who felt lost navigating my pregnancy and postpartum period.”
PREPARe, or Perinatal Reproductive Education Planning and Resources, integrates wellness, social workers and other health care providers for perinatal Veterans. Some of the providers include psychiatrists, lactation counselors, dieticians, physical therapists, yoga instructors and more. These interdisciplinary services ensure Veterans have access to care they need – in house.
The importance of PREPARe has already been formally recognized by VA. Seeking to immediately fill the gap in care, PREPARe went right into diffusion, where programs are implemented at several additional sites with the support of Diffusion of Excellence.
In 2021, PREPARe received the Robert L. Jesse Award for Excellence in Innovation. “Winners are shining examples of how VA is fulfilling Secretary Denis McDonough’s priority of providing all Veterans with timely, world class care,” said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, deputy under secretary for health for the Office of Discovery, Education, and Affiliate Networks.
PREPARe has seen rapid success across VA. Nurses helping Veterans learn to breastfeed, inviting fathers into nutrition and counseling courses, and providing community to Veterans are just some of the successes.
PREPARe also helps Veterans during their most difficult experiences, such as when staff helped a Veteran process the loss of her infant twins.
“I feel that VA cares about women. We’re being heard and our needs are being addressed,” said one Veteran involved in the program. For Tran and her team, this is the reason why they are doing this. “It became part of my mission to make sure that perinatal services, education, and support are readily available to all across our healthcare system,” Tran said.
Want to support VHA IE’s innovation revolution? Visit our website to learn about opportunities to become involved in innovation at VA.