The need for health care doesn’t stop just because it’s 5:00 p.m., the weekend, or a holiday. In fact, the busiest time for both urgent care clinics and emergency rooms is early afternoon and evening hours.
In 2018, when leaders from the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network (VISN 8) conceptualized a model for a virtual urgent care organization, known now as the VISN 8 Clinical Contact Center, they knew 24/7/365 support for Veterans was an absolute must.
“Our primary goal was to launch a highly responsive, virtual urgent care service that could be available to Veterans around the clock,” said Suzanne M. Klinker, Deputy Network Director for Clinical Contact Center, VISN 8.
“We felt that providing anything less than that was not an option.”
When the VISN 8 Clinical Contact Center first opened to serve Veterans in July 2019, it offered 24-hour support, although limited. Coverage during weekends, holidays, evenings, and nights, known as WHEN hours, was staffed by registered nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and health administration professionals with medical providers available from 7:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily.
Then, just a little over a year ago, the center hired two nocturnists, or physicians who work overnight, to truly become the 24/7/365 virtual urgent care service leaders aspired it to be. Dr. Amy Pound was one of them.
As a self-described “daughter of a military brat” and wife to a Marine Corps Veteran, Pound relished in the opportunity to be part of the center’s mission and tip of the spear for Veterans in need of physician support during WHEN hours.
“The flow of the ER and clinical contact center are very similar. The volume increases in the evening, and as the night progresses, things start to mellow out,” she explained.
“As someone with an emergency medicine background, I really enjoy ‘busy’ and the rhythm of the work I do.”
Like many of the professionals who staff the center, Pound’s connection to Veterans and VA runs deep, and because of this, she said, it is an “honor and blessing” to be part of the mission.
“I get to speak to and see Veterans every day, and they are so thankful,” she said. “Many of them thank me for staying or being available at night, but that’s my job and its nice to be able to treat them when they need it.”
Pound went on to say that many Veterans wake up and don’t feel well in the middle of the night and present with colds, coughs, and sore throats – all symptoms she works hard to diagnose and treat working jointly with Veterans and the center’s cadre of nurses, pharmacy professionals, and others.
“The VISN 8 Clinical Contact Center is a big group family with the night shift being a subset of the larger family,” said Pound.
“We are all focused on first contact resolution and preventing any delays in care and treatment. We aim to provide the right care, right now. America’s Veterans deserve nothing less.”
To learn more about the 24/7/365 services the VISN 8 Clinical Contact Center provides, please visit www.visn8.va.gov/ccc.asp.
Veterans who are enrolled and eligible for VA health care in Florida, South Georgia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and who need urgent care support, can call the center any time at 1-877-741-3400.