Veterans and Family Advisory Council - VA Palo Alto Health Care System
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VA Palo Alto Health Care System


Veterans and Family Advisory Council

VFAC Group members sit around a table during a meeting

Veteran and Family Advisors bring diverse views and help make positive changes in the care and services VAPAHCS delivers.

By Dave Earnest
Wednesday, March 8, 2017

In 2010, under the direction and guidance of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Director Lisa Freeman established the Veterans and Family Advisory Council (VFAC). Lisa believed that in order to guarantee the best outcomes for our patients and experiences for their families, it was vital for our Veterans and Family members to be an active part of the team in planning and implementing patient-centered care initiatives and programs.

Our Acting Director, Gloria Martinez, carries the mantle forward stating, “You really cannot serve your customers well without hearing directly from them. The VFAC is part of our team pursuing the highest levels of Veteran and Family Centered Care.”

Having served on the Council now for over a year attending meetings once a month, I realize the significant role of the Council, which includes sharing our vision and first-hand experiences with staff and leadership, providing perspective that only the eyes of the Veteran and their family can provide. These fresh perspectives are seen as a valuable asset by staff as we work as a team to enhance Veteran and family experiences throughout the health care system.

The VFAC has met with over 250 staff members and partnered in more than 175 different projects and initiatives. Many of you have participated in one of our premier projects, the Simulation Based Communication Training. These are real time exercises where Council members become performers, acting out realistic patient care scenarios, and staff learning to utilize their patient-centered communication skills. Some sessions are videotaped but all of the sessions are de-briefed in order to enhance the experience. Staff particularly appreciates the chance to engage with real Veterans to enhance their communication skills and positively interact with our Veteran patients and families.

“If Everyone is Moving Forward Together, then Success Takes Care of Itself!” - Abraham Lincoln

Fellow Veterans, Travis Runnels, CMT, and JoAnn Martinez co-chair VFAC and facilitate the meetings. Additionally, Linda Frommer, MPH, facilitates our meetings and leads a national workshop, assisting in the development of like programs throughout the VA System. They are members of the Quality, Safety and Value team. Travis, JoAnn and Linda plan and facilitate our meetings, and often provide written feedback to the staff who partner with the VFAC.

The advent of the VFAC has created a transforming culture shift requiring sacrifice, vulnerability, vision and buy-in from all the stakeholders. As Veterans and family members on the Council, we are most grateful to the leadership and staff for including our voices in making the VA Palo Alto the best it can be!

If you have partnered with the VFAC, thank you. If you have not, we invite you to engage with the Council. We are committed to partner with you and are delighted to be a part of the team!


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