OCE Partnerships and COVID-19 - National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships
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OCE Partnerships and COVID-19

OCE staff member Randy Moler is assisting with Social Work efforts during the coronavirus pandemic

As the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way many Veterans receive health care and many Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees conduct their work, some VHA staff members have been devoting their time, energy, and skills to efforts that ease the effects of COVID-19. Team members from VHA’s Office of Community Engagement (OCE) have stepped up to help during this challenging time in several ways. Here are their stories.

Randy Moler, program analyst and licensed clinical social worker at OCE, explained that as the coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges to Veteran patients as well as VHA staff members, social workers have been among those who have stepped up to help.

Mr. Moler explained that the VHA Social Work program office formed a “tiger team” to support the needs of the field at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A tiger team is a term used for a team of specialists formed to work on specific goals. Within the Social Work tiger team, several different work groups are developing content for tip sheets, guidebooks, and messaging specific to social work efforts during the pandemic. These materials are helping spread information related to the COVID-19 response within VHA and can be shared with Veterans and their caregivers as well.

“I’ve written some content for the tip sheets related to surge support,” Mr. Moler explained. “I’ve also provided some document review for tip sheets that come from all of the groups.” His co-worker at OCE, Ms. Christine Eickhoff, also assisted with some document creation for social workers in the field.

“Generally speaking, social workers are the members of the Veteran’s treatment team who address the social determinants of health directly,” Mr. Moler continued. The social determinants of health are the conditions in the environments where Veterans live, work, worship, and age, such as access to transportation or food security.

Mr. Moler said that social workers can review a treatment plan provided to a patient from a doctor to determine what the patient will need in order to follow through with that treatment—if a patient has to go to several medical appointments per week, social workers can help determine how the patient will get to and from those appointments, for example.

The National Social Work Program Office, Mr. Moler said, was receiving questions about how work would be conducted as the COVID-19 pandemic began. Social Work leaders and those providing direct care to Veterans had questions such as how staffing would be affected, what modifications were needed to continue to provide in-person care, and how to expand telehealth services, for example.

To provide some help in line with his expertise, Mr. Moler assisted with the creation and review of tip sheets related to: patient discharge planning; how Veterans can combat isolation during the pandemic; how facilities can ensure there are an adequate number of staff members working; how social workers can modify their practice to incorporate telehealth, and more.

Mr. Moler said he felt that he had a responsibility to help his colleagues and Veteran patients alike during the pandemic.

“My colleagues at VA who are continuing to have direct interaction with patients, there was a sense that these folks are going to be overwhelmed, so I thought, what can I do to help alleviate that?” Mr. Moler said. “Seeing the news, seeing the numbers change and go up, I felt compelled to do something.”

Stay tuned to OCE’s COVID-19 updates page for interviews with members of the Social Work team who will provide more information on how their office has been responding to the challenges of COVID-19.

For more information on OCE’s work on partnerships throughout VHA, please visit www.va.gov/healthpartnerships.

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Posted July 13, 2020