“Do events create great heroes, or do great heroes create events?” asked Ralph Gigliotti, VA Rocky Mountain Network (VISN 19) network director, at the start of a recent video highlighting the role VA played in Veteran care during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As “Learning from the Past… Positioning for the Future” details, the pandemic took a toll on VISN 19 staff, but the resilient team showed exactly why our team members are exceptional.
As COVID-19 reached Colorado in March 2020, Paul Roberts, Cheyenne VA Medical Center director, described early efforts to build a manpower pool, a new support structure to assist the staff working on the front line. Tasks were assigned to every staff member, regardless of specialty.
“Physicians, nurses, finance folks. Everybody was on the manpower pool,” Roberts explained.
“There wasn’t a single person I thought we could do without,” Pamela Crowell, Sheridan VA Medical Center director, pointed out.
Everyone on the ground stepped up and found a way to help. Crowell would see members of her mental health division outside screening employees at the start of each shift – doing their part in the cold, rain and snow.
Medical staff found themselves combatting a true unknown but refused to give up the fight.
As Crowell stated, “You can work when you’re scared, you can work through fear. You can find a way to put on that face and still take care of Veterans.”
Looking to the future
No matter the challenge, our staff are here to care for Veterans. Even now, we’re working to provide vaccines to Veterans, spouses and caregivers around the country. Eligible recipients can get a COVID-19 vaccine at VA by appointment or at a walk-in clinic.
“I would ask everyone, please, trust the science, trust the facts,” offered Michael Kilmer, VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System director, “and know that we’re here to fulfill our mission and to help our Veterans improve their well-being.”
“Our employees know our Veterans, they care for our Veterans, and they love our Veterans. The heroism of our employees, the manner in which they dealt with, and still do deal with, the COVID pandemic,” Gigliotti said. “I don’t know why you would want to get care anywhere else.”
The mission continues
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted our ongoing need for talented professionals dedicated to providing health care to our Veterans. Indeed, we’ve increased our hiring to meet rising health care demand throughout the country.
That effort has made us one of the most reliable places to work for health care professionals. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) workforce grew by 4% in 2020, compared to the previous year.
“If you think about the size of our workforce, just to grow by 4%, we have to hire tens of thousands of people annually just to keep pace,” said Jessica Bonjorni, chief officer of human capital management at VHA. “We’re going to keep growing.”
Work at VA
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