VA medical providers have increased Veterans’ access to care
There is no greater or noble mission at the Department of Veterans Affairs than to care for the men and women who served our great nation. Providing that care requires an aggressive recruitment effort that spans the country in search of the best and brightest professionals in the medical field. Over the past year, VA has launched a nationwide recruitment campaign aimed finding those who view work at VA not just as a job, but as a career.
In addition, VA is leveraging existing relationships, broadening partnerships and increasing incentives to help those in the medical field choose VA. We know that in order to recruit and retain the highest quality medical professionals, VA needs to be competitive with other healthcare systems, and ultimately that is how we provide the best care to our Veterans.
VA’s medical professionals have made significant progress in providing access to America’s Veterans. In the past year, they completed 2.5 million more appointments than the previous year. As Secretary McDonald told Congress earlier this week, VA is aggressively using technology like telehealth, secure messaging, and e-consults to reach more Veterans. Clinical output has increased 8.5 percent while our healthcare budget has increased only 2.8 percent. That means Veterans are getting care and most are getting care when they want it. In April 2015, VA completed 97 percent of appointments within 30 days of the clinically indicated or Veteran’s preferred date; 93 percent within 14 days; 88 percent within 7 days; and 22 percent on the same day. VA has completed 12 million same-day appointments, which is 20 percent of VA’s total appointments per year.
“At VA, you have the privilege of treating the brave men and women who served our country. And there are many more reasons why you might consider a VA position over private practice. From comprehensive education and training programs to competitive salaries and insurance packages, we’re committed to making sure our physicians are well supported.” Read more about a career at VA vs. private practice.
Consider some key facts on where we are with recruiting and hiring at VA’s medical centers:
The turnover rate in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is lower than the private sector: approximately 9 percent in VHA while the private sector healthcare turnover rate estimates of 18 percent as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. From April 1, 2014 to April 30, 2015, VHA hired 41,026 employees and, like every health care system or major company, experiences personnel losses due to retirements, resignations, and other reasons on a continuous basis, resulting in a vacancy count that is fluid, and that changes every month.
The net onboard increase over the past year was 12,179 employees, or a 4.15 percent increase. This net onboard increase of 12,000 includes more than 1,000 physicians, 2,700 nurses, 4,600 select critical occupations and 3,600 other occupations.
The number of vacancies has increased since 10,000 more full time employees were added in the Choice Act. To date, VHA has filled more than 4,000 of the 10,682 positions targeted for Choice Act hiring, approaching 39 percent of the target, and continues to make good progress toward filling these new positions while back-filling newly vacated positions as a result of normal turnover.
Over the past year, Secretary McDonald has worked diligently to engage and recruit health professionals. He has increased salaries for physicians and dentists to close the pay gap with the private sector and to make VA an employer of choice. Also, VA is expanding the loan repayment program, as included in the recently passed Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act. McDonald has spoken to more than a dozen medical schools as well as to the American Medical Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, American Osteopathic Association, and the American Nurses Association meetings, in order to engage our partners, conveying a commitment to them and to VA’s educational and research missions. He’s even reached out directly to recruit potential employees.
The health care recruitment field is fiercely competitive and, as a result, faces similar challenges to our private sector counterparts. Some of those challenges have been reported on by the media and others: the growing national shortage and availability of experienced, quality medical professionals; the salaries typically paid by private industry for similar positions; and other supporting factors such as rural/highly rural locations that may be considered less desirable.
From WWII to today’s conflicts, every Veteran of every generation has a special story to tell and deserves customized attention. VA is committed to hiring health care professionals who can effectively address a variety of needs.
Visit VAcareers.va.gov to learn more about the unique benefits of a career serving our nation’s Veterans.