VA Sunshine Healthcare Network
Veteran Experience Officer Reinforces Commitment
Bay Pines VA Healthcare System’s Veteran Experience Officer Amy Whitaker understands why her father, a Marine Corps Veteran, never wanted to elaborate on his time in Vietnam. However, as fathers do, Whitaker’s dad did share his thoughts about life. To her recollection, those words of wisdom often centered around the importance of serving those who served; sentiments which she can recall clearly.
“My father always stressed that every Veteran should be treated with respect,” Whitaker said. “The most important aspect of a Veteran’s experience is our collective effort to reinforce that every Veteran is valued and respected.”
During the week of April 24 - 28, Bay Pines VA celebrates Patient Experience Week. This annual observance provides opportunities for the healthcare system to evaluate Veterans’ feedback about their care and celebrate the effective elements of its approach to healthcare.
“The most rewarding part of my responsibilities at the Veteran Experience Office (VEO) is helping Veterans navigate the healthcare system,” Whitaker said. “Our team bridges gaps in understanding, access, and resolution; being able to work with Veterans and get them what they need is a rewarding experience for Veterans and our team.”
Whitaker has been part of the Department of Veterans Affairs since 2012, joining Bay Pines VA Healthcare System last May. As part of her responsibilities, Whitaker champions the Veteran experience for more than 120,000 Veterans.
“VEO is always looking for ways to enhance the Veteran experience,” Whitaker continued. “This year, we have three goals: Improve the overall rating of the hospital; Improve overall satisfaction with primary care; Improve the outpatient trust score.”
The first goal focuses on the inpatient experience. Bay Pines VA routinely sends surveys to a random sampling of Veterans. These responses are used to determine how well Bay Pines VA is doing at providing quality care. The rating received reflects Veterans’ responses to the question: How would you rate this hospital stay? The second goal, overall satisfaction, focuses on the entire experience of primary care. Bay Pines VA’s provider-scores continue to rate very high based on Veterans’ feedback.
Whitaker is consistently reviewing and analyzing feedback from Veterans to learn more about areas where the healthcare system can improve. She also looks for consistency in responses that reflect areas where Bay Pines VA meets and exceeds expectations. One of those areas is the patient trust score, an area in where the healthcare system consistently scores 90% or higher.
“This tells us that Veterans feel confident in the care, follow-through, and treatment they receive at Bay Pines,” Whitaker added. “Having a high trust score shows our employees are making the Veteran experience a priority.”
Whitaker acknowledges the work the nearly five-thousand Bay Pines VA employees do every day but she’s quick to underscore the commitment of her team, who often works with Veterans to help them gain a deeper understanding of the services we provide and resolve issues with their care.
“The Veteran experience team is extremely skilled,” continued the Veteran experience officer. “They’re patient, thorough, great active listeners, collaborate well with multiple services across the facility, knowledgeable about our services, and skilled at conflict resolution.”
According to Whitaker, so far during fiscal year 2023 her team has handled an average of 650 calls per month. While the team was able to successfully address many Veterans’ concerns, they also received quite a few compliments.
“We welcome feedback – positive, constructive, or otherwise,” Whitaker said. “We’re here to serve those who have served us, and we appreciate all interactions because it’s always value-added toward our goal of exceeding the expectations of America’s heroes and their loved ones.”