As a registered nurse at VHA Home HealthCare, Safi Barat often found that he wanted to explore solutions to issues that came up in his work. Some of these issues related to medication administration and the potential for human error. When the opportunity to be part of the Champions of Change Fellowship program emerged, he knew he wanted to take that next step towards making a difference. His fellow “champions” felt the same.
“I wanted a chance to use my other skills in addition to being a PSW. I was excited to learn new skills and work with other colleagues to lead change,” said Christine Froude, a PSW at VHA and another Fellow that has just completed the program.
The Champions of Change Fellowship program is a professional development program designed to provide nurses and PSWs with an opportunity to work together to lead a project to improve the quality of care that VHA provides to clients. The Fellows learn how to develop and carry out a quality improvement initiative while growing their own leadership and communication skills. The program is designed to foster development within VHA and equips care providers with the tools they need to identify and act on opportunities to improve client care.
Safi Barat, Christine Froude, and Hana Asfaw were selected to participate in this interdisciplinary program over the past year. The trio found they collaborated effectively and benefited from the different perspectives from their experiences in nursing and personal support work.
“Together, we were able to identify the gaps in our system and as a front-line team, come up with ideas to make improvements to benefit colleagues and clients,” said Christine.
With the issue of medication administration errors in mind, the Fellows created a form to improve communication about how to support individual clients with their medications. It was designed to provide necessary information about the medications a client takes, where to find them, and the role VHA plays in supporting the client’s medication administration. The form is specifically designed to be shared and used collaboratively by the PSWs and nurses caring for a client. The team also created educational materials to fill gaps they observed in personal support worker knowledge of medication, which will also help improve medication administration for VHA’s clients.
The Fellows’ work has already made a difference at VHA. Those who have used the form with their clients have found it helpful and see potential for it in the field. It takes the guessing out of ‘if’ a PSW has a role in medication administration, improves communication across a care team and provides better patient outcomes.
Along with these positive impacts for the organization came benefits for the Fellows themselves.
“It takes courage to embark on a program like this, which took the Fellows outside of their usual comfort zones and asked them to create something new,” said Emily King, the manager of Research Operations at VHA. “I admire their willingness to dive in and work together to come up with new ways to improve the quality and safety of the care that VHA provides to our clients.”
The recipients found the program helped them develop new skills to grow in their roles.
“This program allowed me to think about what should be done to better serve the community,” said Hana. “It also allowed me to connect with my co-workers, manage my time more effectively and demonstrate my commitment.”
“This program has really helped me grow as an individual. It taught me more about myself each week, helping me recognize my strengths as well as weaknesses”, said Safi. “I now feel more confident in my ability to assess problems, analyze data and help construct possible solutions.”