VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System’s Environmental Management Services (EMS) chief, Larry Hillson, often boasts that VA Sierra Nevada, in Reno, NV, is the “cleanest hospital in the country.”

“In our current media environment, a dirty hospital can immediately be on the front-page news,” he says.  When you meet Hillson, you know why people consider him the real-life Mr. Clean. He still sports a Marine Corps regulation haircut and his EMS staff operates as a proud cleaning battalion. Hillson is a proud 32-year Marine Corps Veteran and VA employee since 2008; he is also an inventor and innovator.

How did Hillson complete his mission to help nearly 20 other VA facilities clean up? Enter the VHA Innovators Network (iNET) – creating opportunities for VHA employees to turn ideas into reality. This is one piece of what iNET does best.

As the EMS Chief in Reno, Hillson’s job is to maintain a clean facility. He has done much more.

“In 2014, as I was watching my housekeepers go from point A to point B, some traveling 20 to 40 yards between locations, that’s when the idea came to me: What if I put a sweeper attachment under their housekeeping carts?” With the support of VA Reno leadership, Hillson applied to iNET’s Spark-Seed-Spread Innovation Investment Program to support the development of his Housekeeping Cart Sweeper Attachment.

The Spark-Seed-Spread Innovation Investment Program invests funding back into VHA employees and VA medical centers, allowing them to test and develop their ideas and solutions in an accelerated lifecycle. We believe VHA frontline employees can design and develop innovative solutions for Veterans and VHA employees better than anyone. It is also our experience that the training and intrapreneur-focused learning opportunities provided by iNET are a critical piece of the success of not only the development of an employee’s innovative idea, but the growth of the employee themselves.

iNet impact

Hillson describes the Sweeper Attachment as “low cost, low tech, and big impact.” He doesn’t, however, underestimate the impact iNET has had on him or the success of his innovation. “Innovation with frontline employees is critical because they are the ones in the action. Many times, they have a great idea, a spark, but just don’t know how to execute that idea. This is where the Innovators Network can assist them with vetting and promoting their ideas.”

It is because of the passion and drive of innovators like Larry that VA delivers the best care anywhere. iNET is proud to support employee-driven innovations. Follow the VHA Innovation Ecosystem on Facebook and Twitter each month as a new employee innovator is showcased. Learn how iNET is creating an army of frontline VHA employee innovators.

“I love being a part of iNET. The people are the most fun, energetic, creative, and intelligent that I’ve met while working for the VA. My name is Larry Hillson and I am an innovator!”

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Published on Feb. 10, 2020

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One Comment

  1. Clarence Eugene Wenzel February 14, 2020 at 11:16 am

    I’m a 94 yr old WWII veteran retired from Grumman Corp. My goal to my last breath on this planet is to obtain peaceful relations among all nations on this planet. Of my six inventions, one patented in 1985, three are proven and three available for development. My experiences as a Naval Aviator and nuclear physicist have given me many ideas to take into retirement. I find companies fear complications and therefore want me to get a patent. I’m far too busy to try and find the financial support required. My wife of 66 yrs and I do not need to earn money. I just want to create employment opportunities. I have contacted a local professor who I’m hoping will find a student group to run with one of my inventions. My inventions are gifts. I would make myself available to help, but give complete freedom to anyone wanting to advance my ideas.

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