If you like innovation, you’ll love working at VA. We have adopted and continually promote a culture of innovation among our team. One of the ways we do this is by encouraging employee-developed and implemented innovations and promising practices that lead to better care and services for our nation’s Veterans.
This culture of innovation was recently celebrated at the virtual VHA Innovation Experience (iEX) annual conference organized by the VHA Innovation Ecosystem. It’s just one example of the many initiatives championed by VA to improve health care services and delivery.
The iEX conference showcased solutions and practices created by employees and honored top innovators with an Innovator of the Year Award and VHA Innovators Network (iNET) Awards.
Eighteen employee innovators from the iNET Spark-Seed-Spread Innovation Investment Program participated in iEX demonstrations. These frontline employees designed innovative products or programs over the past year, while being trained in innovation-related competencies. The event also featured 15 Diffusion of Excellence Shark Tank competition finalists who pitched their promising, evidence-based practices to tough health care challenges. These solutions were presented to VA leaders, or “sharks,” interested in replicating these practices at their facilities.
From the Army to VA nurse and employee innovator
Terri Ohlinger, a Cincinnati VA Medical Center (VAMC) nurse, has been creating health solutions for her patients throughout her 30-year nursing career. She developed a sense of resourcefulness while serving in the Army, caring for her fellow soldiers. That ingenuity followed Ohlinger to VA – it’s how she approaches caring for her fellow Veterans. Luckily, the Cincinnati VAMC is part of iNET. Her latest quest is called “Drop Ease.”
Ohlinger developed the Drop Ease device to measure eye drops efficiently while making it easy enough for all Veterans to use.
“Too many patients were not performing their eye drop treatment regimens because the bottle was too hard to squeeze, potentially leading to poor outcomes,” said Ohlinger. “They were also using too many drops with each dose and needed to reorder drops more frequently, resulting in increased costs.”
Since iNET connects and partners with academia, nonprofit companies and the private sector, Ohlinger was able to get in touch with Quality Life Plus (QL+), a nonprofit focused on fostering and generating innovations that aid and improve the quality of life for those who have served. The company teamed engineering students from the University of Cincinnati with Ohlinger to work on prototyping Drop Ease as part of their senior project.
Empowering employees and Veterans
iNET allows VA employees to innovate and succeed. Its success isn’t based solely on the final innovative solution design or its implementation. Rather, it is measured by the sense of empowerment the employee innovator gets from participating in iNET.
What does it mean to be part of iNET? “That I am being heard,” Ohlinger said. “More importantly, [that] the Veterans are being heard. I asked what the problem was and then strived to find the answer – and then took it back to the Vets so they could tell me how to make it better.”
It is because of the passion and drive of innovators like Ohlinger that VA delivers the best care anywhere.
Work at VA
VA is always looking for talented innovators who want to make a difference in the lives of Veterans. See if a VA career is right for you: