Education Leaders in the VA: The Role of the Designated Education Officer (DEO) - Office of Academic Affiliations
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Education Leaders in the VA: The Role of the Designated Education Officer (DEO)

Introduction and Background

Prior to 1994, education leadership positons were centralized and “vetted” through the Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA) Office of Academic Affiliations (OAA).  With reorganization to Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNS), education leadership positions were decentralized and facilities had varying ways of ensuring adequate leadership at the local level for staff and health professions trainees.  By the early 2000’s, nearly 60 education titles existed for these roles.  To ensure adequate leadership at the local level, meet various program accreditation standards, and begin to define oversight responsibilities for health professions trainees the concept of a Designated Education Officer (DEO) was established.  The DEO is responsible for ensuring the administration and oversight of clinical trainee programs at VA Medical Centers.  In some facilities the DEO may be called the Associate Chief of Staff for Education (ACOS/E).  Administration and oversight of staff learning needs are conducted by a Designated Learning Officer (DLO) or Chief Learning Officer.  Some facilities have the ACOS/E serve as both the DEO and DLO depending on size and complexity. 

In this context in November of 2007, VHA endorsed a long-term transformational performance goal to “distinguish VHA as a Learning Organization.”  The goal is aimed at transitioning VHA from the prior state of traditional, mandatory and compliance driven education to one that integrates learning into the work of the organization and drives performance. Learning organizations are effective organizations because they:

  • Foster innovation
  • Increase the ability of the organization to manage change
  • Improve quality and performance
  • Increase employee satisfaction
  • Improve retention
  • Develop a more committed and engaged workforce

Learning Leader Competency Project

  • The T-4 transformational goal (2011) prompted the need to create a new profile for Learning Leaders across VHA.  The role of learning leaders, including the Designated Learning Officer (DLO) and the Designated Education Officer (DEO), is critical to supporting the mission of the VA.

    DEO Role Description:
  • The Designated Education Officer (DEO) or Associate Chief of Staff for Education (ACOS/E) is a facility-based learning leader with oversight, responsibility, and accountability for all accredited and affiliated clinical trainee programs within that facility.  The DEO maintains the quality of the relationships with affiliates and a positive, effective local learning environment.  Thus, the DEO contributes to the quality of health care for Veterans and the nation. 
Education Leaders in VA: The Role of the Designated Education Officer