National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships
OCE Partnerships and COVID-19
Social Work Tiger Team provides important resources during coronavirus pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has presented new challenges for everyone. Over the last couple of months, physical distancing guidelines have changed everything from travel routines to work locations to grocery store visits. Leaders within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) understand these challenges and are doing everything possible to ensure that Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors receive the care and support they deserve during these unprecedented times.
The Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) Social Work COVID-19 Tiger Team was created earlier this year to ensure social workers across the nation have the resources necessary to continue their important work assisting Veterans, families, caregivers and civilians as part of VA's fourth mission, which extends health care to civilians in emergencies. A Tiger Team is a term stemming from the military, and is used for a team of specialists formed to work on specific goals. Approximately 45 subject matter experts came together for the cause.
“The entire world changed with the COVID-19 pandemic, and that included social work,” explained Ms. Jennifer Silva, a national social work program coordinator. “Soon after the coronavirus emerged, VA Social Workers started serving Veterans remotely and transitioning to telework. The National Social Work program received questions from social workers in the field about what resources were available to them as they began working remotely.”
“The Social Work COVID-19 Tiger Team's goal was simple: develop a one-stop-shop for social workers to access the latest resources in order to best serve Veterans, families and caregivers in their community,” said Ms. Silva.
The Social Work COVID-19 Tiger Team quickly got to work, creating an internal VA SharePoint internal resource hub including information about hospital surge planning, resources for staff who could have been exposed to COVID-19, and telehealth materials designed for Veterans and their caregivers. In total, the Social Work COVID-19 Tiger Team created more than 15 resource documents.
Since April 19, more than 4,600 VA social workers and staff collectively viewed the resource hub more than 37,439 times.
The efforts of the Social Work COVID-19 Tiger Team also helped increase access to health care services for Veterans everywhere. In May, more than 230 social workers were trained on using VA Video Connect, an app that allows Veterans and their caregivers to quickly and easily meet with VA health care providers through live video on any computer, tablet, or mobile device with an internet connection. Telehealth services offered to Veterans through VA Video Connect increased more than 1000% during the COVID-19 pandemic, and kept Veterans safe by allowing them to have their appointments at home or on the go.
“Ms. Silva’s leadership of the Social Work COVID-19 Tiger Team has been instrumental in supporting social workers in the field with assisting Veterans, their families and caregivers during past few months,” said Jennifer Koget, VA’s National Program Manager for the Fisher House & Family Hospitality Program. VA’s Fisher Houses provide temporary accommodations at no cost for Veterans, active duty military, their families, and caregivers while receiving treatment through a VA medical facility. In support of COVID-19 response efforts, the National Fisher House program led the transformation of 15 VA Fisher Houses to provide over 2,327 nights of lodging for VHA health care workers who deployed to various VA medical centers for an extended period of time.
In August, the Social Work COVID-19 Tiger Team will transition to a Social Work National Emergency Tiger Team that will offer a broader range of support for pandemic response, natural emergencies, and human created events.
“Social workers provide the resources, pulling together VA and community-based information and services on a moment’s notice to meet the needs of the Veterans, their families, and caregivers. That is even more important and challenging in these times,” said Dr. Tracy L. Weistreich, nurse executive of VHA’s Office of Community Engagement (OCE). “I am delighted and proud to support these efforts, including having a social worker on the OCE team serve on the Tiger Team,” Dr. Weistreich continued.
OCE is VHA’s trusted resource and catalyst for growth of public-private partnerships. Several of OCE’s staff members are licensed social workers and have assisted with relief efforts during COVID-19. OCE has documented numerous stories of how partnerships have positively impacted Veterans throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
To learn more about the work these partnerships are doing, visit: https://www.va.gov/HEALTHPARTNERSHIPS/updates/impact/covid19.asp.
To learn more about how OCE builds effective partnerships across VHA to support Veterans, visit: www.va.gov/healthpartnerships.
Posted September 17, 2020