Face of InnoVAtion is a regular series from the VHA Innovation Ecosystem (VHA IE) focusing on VA employees who are working to change and save Veteran lives through innovation. This month meet Kim Bielicki, Innovation Specialist at the Orlando VA Healthcare System (VAHCS).
Innovation Specialist Kim Bielicki knows that change can be very hard. When working with innovators at the Orlando VAHCS who are striving to forge a healthier future for Veterans through innovation, she often hears they’ve been told “no” by others. Bielicki, however, knows that improved Veteran care starts and ends with these frontline employees.
“The employees are by far my favorite part of innovation,” said Bielicki. “Innovation comes from the frontline staff; they know the problems our Veterans are facing. Often, they have been told their ideas won’t work. When they meet me, I keep digging, searching to find how we can make their ideas come to life.”
As an Innovation Specialist at the Orlando VAHCS, Bielicki empowers fellow employees to create innovative, Veteran-centric solutions using their unique and valuable perspectives. She is responsible for guiding employees through the piloting of their innovations by connecting them with resources and past the roadblocks and challenges new ideas often face. This has built a culture of innovation that connects her with the employees she supports.
“Orlando innovators know that I love to brag about them and will do so any chance I have. I truly have the best job and get to work with the most amazing people,” noted Bielicki. “I was a flight attendant early in my career, and this group makes me feel that same bond. They think outside the box and work together.”
Bielicki started her career with VA over 11 years ago in Community Care. In February 2020, the opportunity arose for the Orlando VAHCS to become a VHA Innovators Network (iNET) site. Orlando VAHCS leadership was ecstatic to become an official iNET site, and Bielicki landed her dream job as an Innovation Specialist. “Innovation feeds the soul,” she said. “Innovation breaks down silos and gets people involved and excited to work on projects that have such an impact on Veterans.”
Bielicki’s goal was to build an innovation program that empowers and invests in employees with training, tools and resources to bring their innovative ideas to Veteran hands. She has done just that, not only developing a culture of innovation within her facility, but supporting the wider Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) innovation program, providing two iNET sites for VISN 8 employee training.
With many innovative technologies at Orlando VAHCS, Bielicki supports her facility by ensuring the implementation of solutions runs smoothly for clinicians and patients. She’s taking her support for innovation further by working with iNET Greenhouse projects to build collaborative programs between VA and the health care innovation community. It’s a chance not just for innovative new care to reach Veterans, but for the medical industry at large.
“I have enjoyed working with the Greenhouse collaborators and iNET site subject matter experts. I learn so much from each one,” she said. Orlando VAHCS and other VA sites are piloting Greenhouse innovations like Levi Sense’s SensorCell Flotation Therapy, a therapeutic bed system that helps with the prevention and treatment of pressure-induced wounds and ulcers. Bielicki helps this pilot project come to life by overseeing the smooth delivery of the innovations to Veterans.
“When you see Veterans get to be part of an innovation project, it’s priceless,” Bielicki added. “Pilot launch days are always my favorite.”