VA North Texas Health Care System
New Wheelchair Improves Comfort and Safety
The wheel chair has become one of those unfortunate pieces of equipment that seems to invoke nothing more than negative reactions. Discussing wheelchairs with employees and Veterans tends to lead to negative remarks about two things: The uncomfortable, possibly torn, plastic seats and the noisy mechanical wheels that either refuse to move or just spin in random directions. This negative association is reinforced when a cursory walk through many Medical Centers can lead to finding one more stray wheelchairs sitting by the entrance or in a hallway. They may be broken or merely abandoned, but it still raises a lot of questions—especially when they are sitting by elevators. Finding an abandoned wheelchair by the elevator is always just confusing at best.
VA North Texas chose to see this negative association with the wheelchair as an opportunity to improve, rather than let it remain problem. Assembling a team of subject matter experts was the first thing that needed to be done. After they were gathered together, the team began conducting evidence-based research to find the root cause and study some best practices. They then collected Veteran, Family member and employee feedback. The results of their findings and decison on how to best improve patient and employee safety, while also improving the total Veteran experience, led to the decision to purchase the Stryker Transport Chair (Stryker TC).
The Stryker TC is a one-touch, operator friendly, medical enabler that the North Texas VA has started deploying throughout the VA North Texas system. This new chair has already helped create a more comfortable and welcoming experience for patients, caregivers and family members. It does this several ways. The larger and more comfortable seat for patients is probably one of the more obvious ones, but it also has much more to offer.“Patient transportation is critical to what we do every day, in every facet of patient care,” said Heather Arredondo, VA North Texas Chief Nurse of Workforce and Excellence. “Having access to dependable and complete patient transport options frees up employee time and saves VA money in replacement costs.”
These costs typically come in the form of replacing critical equipment like secure poles and intuitive activation points, which wheel chairs need. Chairs need these items to carry oxygen, IV’s and catheters for Veterans who need them. With older wheel chairs, some equipment can easily be removed and lost during a chair’s daily service.On a long enough timeline, removable or losable equipment is bound to go missing. This adds additional time and frustration for Veterans and employees who need fully operational equipment. That's why one of the great features of the Stryker TC is that it has movable, but not removable, parts.
Another great benefit is the the big wheel design of the chair.This makes it much easier to maneuver while transporting Veterans from one unit to another.
This design should help prevent, mitigate or reduce the amount of injuries and long-term strain that can accompany the daily task of pushing, pulling and steering chairs. Best of all is that the reaction to this change has already been great. “Our patients and staff are very satisfied with the new chairs,” said Arredondo.“This type of innovation, something that was corrected with research, listening to the voices that were shared with us and a few clicks on a computer is incredibly gratifying—especially when it's made a significant difference in the daily experiences of patients and staff.”
VA North Texas utilizes the chairs in ambulatory care and in-patient areas, with plans to expand through 2019.