Russellville VA clinic team gets national recognition

By Tammy Keith Originally Published March 14, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated March 13, 2013 at 11:17 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

From the left, Pamela Kellison, Brandi Keen, Martha Nichols and Dr. James B. Jones III are part of the team that won an award at the Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Russellville, which is part of the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.

— While the staff at the Russellville VA Clinic was busy taking care of patients, someone was taking notice of how well the staff was doing it.

A Patient Aligned Care Team at the clinic, which opened in 2010, has been recognized by the Central Business Office for the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C., as one of the three best in the nation.

“We got a call, ‘Oh, you guys did great, and you’ve been a shining star for high performance,’” said Martha Nichols, clinic manager.

Nichols is also a registered nurse on the PACT No. 1 that is being recognized. There are two teams at the clinic.

However, she maintained that it really should be a clinic recognition.

“It takes everybody to make anybody look good,” Nichols said.

A PACT includes a nurse, a doctor or advanced-practice nurse, and a clerk.

As a top team, they’ll be asked to tell other clinics how to be more successful.

Russellville PACT members will be filmed by a crew from the Washington office to create a video to show other Community-Based Outpatient Clinics in the country “best practices” and to show veterans how PACTs work, Jennifer Petersen said.

Petersen is deputy associate chief of staff for primary care at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System in Little Rock.

She said the honor is not an award, but a “recognition of excellence.”

The information used is monitored routinely through electronic medical records, she said.

“It’s all based on statistics and the performance measures,” Petersen said.

Those include continuity with the provider; follow-up with patients after hospitalization access of same-day appointments and seven-day appointments; and performance measures with patients who have chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension. Information about Home Telehealth, through which

veterans use devices in their homes to communicate with health care professionals, was part of the evaluation, too, Petersen said.

PACTs are “individualized, personalized,” Petersen said. “It’s taking care of one veteran at a time.”

She said PACTs are “fairly new, and every year we implement more parts to personalize the care, … and the veteran is the fifth part of that team.”

Nichols, who lives in Booneville, is retired from the U.S. Army. Her last assignment was as nurse manager for Wounded Warriors at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock.

She retired to work at the clinic in Russellville soon after it opened.

Nichols said she had the choice of two clinics, but when she walked into the Russellville office, she liked how she was greeted.

“I thought, ‘This is a stellar team,’” she said.

That’s the goal of the PACT, too, Nichols said.

“That same team will take care of that patient through all their primary care,” Nichols said. “[Veterans] know who [the team members] are; they know who to contact.”

Veterans receive an introduction letter telling them about the team, Nichols said.

She said the clinic has approximately 2,000 veterans enrolled.

Nichols said the veterans enrolled come from Booneville, Dover, Russellville, Clarksville, Ozark and other cities.

“Our catchment area is greater than 50 miles,” she said. “They choose to come to us when places may be closer.

“I think part of it is we try to be personable — we try to give you as much personal attention as we can give. Word of mouth is a lot of it.”

Nichols said she is a patient at her own clinic, and her retired-military husband is, too.

Everyone on her PACT has military affiliations, Nichols said.

In addition to Nichols, team members are Brandi Keen, licensed practical nurse; Dr. James B. Jones III; and Pamela Kellison, medical support assistant.

“There are a lot more people that make that clinic work,” Nichols said.

The two other PACT teams recognized were in Virginia and Florida.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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