William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital
Local VA Nurse Receives National Award
MADISON, Wis. — Every year, exceptional nurses from across the Federal Veterans Health Administration are nominated by their peers for the Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Nursing and Advancement of Nursing Programs. These nurses represent the very best in their chosen profession, demonstrating excellence, innovation, and dedication. Initially submitted from their individual medical centers, candidates’ packets are thoroughly reviewed before a selection is made, with awardees standing out from a pool of over 100,000.
This year the Madison VA’s own Krista Behrend ED/MH RN received the 2019 VA Secretary's Award for Excellence in Nursing: RN Staff Nurse.
She was presented the award in Washington D.C by VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on Dec. 4th.
“First and foremost, I think this award pays tribute to the amazing and supportive management culture the Madison VA embodies,” said Behrend. “That people go out of their way to nominate others for a job well done is truly humbling.”
An RN at the William S. Middleton Memorial Hospital for the past 5 years, Behrend is a recognized expert in Mental Health (MH) Nursing and has leveraged that to improve the quality of care at the Madison VA.
“Madison is recognized as one of the top hospitals in the VA in no small part because of the amazing people that work here,” said John Rohrer, Director. “I congratulate Krista on this recognition of the exceptional effort she puts in every day for our Veterans.”
As part of the committee to improve patient safety in the Emergency Department (ED)in 2017, she became the Madison VA’s first Emergency Department/Mental Health Registered Nurse.
“Whether she is providing therapeutic communication and facilitating streamlined care for a patient during a mental health crisis, or initiating life-saving interventions for a critically ill patient, Krista is a leader among her peers and demonstrates exceptional clinical nursing skills,” said Kristin Drager, Emergency Department Nurse Manager.
Behrend played a key role in developing a new “Assessing ED Environment Hazards” procedure for Emergency Department employees, increasing safety for both employees and patients. The new procedures are now a critical competency for all Emergency Department staff.
Additionally, following the successful implementation of her role in the Emergency Department, Behrend cross-trained 3 additional RNs in both Emergency Department and mental health nursing care. This resulted in consistent specialty mental health care in the ED 7 days a week during the periods with the highest number of patients presenting with mental health concerns.
This process streamlined mental health specific care of a veteran in the Emergency Department, giving them immediate access to mental health targeted care and resources, and decreasing their overall time in ED.
According to the Agency for Health Research and Quality, 1 in 8 emergency room visits in the US are for treatment Mental Health disorders. By embedding mental health specialty care into the ED, Behrend provided education and mentorship for ED staff and improved the quality of care for all patients who use the Emergency Department services at the Madison VA.
The additional coverage began January 1st, 2019.
“The national recognition has been a bit overwhelming, but my goal through this whole process has been that I hope it sparks conversation,” said Behrend. “That an individual in need, or close to someone in need might see information on the services our VA offers, and that it will continue to reach more veterans. If one additional veteran benefits from this program, it’s a success.”
William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital is a Madison-based 131-bed facility that provides health care for about 42,000 Veterans who live in a 13,600 square mile primary service area comprising 15 counties in south central Wisconsin and four in northwestern Illinois. The hospital also operates an annex primary care clinic in Madison and community-based outpatient clinics in Baraboo, Beaver Dam and Janesville, Wis., and in Rockford and Freeport, Ill.
The main hospital includes 85 acute care beds, 18 beds in the hospital’s residential rehabilitation treatment program, and a community living center provides an additional 26 beds for sub-acute transitional care, rehabilitation, and hospice care. The hospital’s outpatient clinics have approximately 1,870 visits each business weekday.
The total veteran population in the Madison VA Hospital’s primary service area is approximately 130,000.