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Novant Health UVA Health System Team Member Newsletter

Our nurses talk shop at the White House

Last week, a Novant Health UVA Health System nurse received the invitation of a lifetime — to participate in a panel discussion at the White House! Read the following blog post from Carl S. Armato, president and CEO, Novant Health, for the full details.

Few get invited to the White House, but I am proud to tell you that two of our own did last week. On Wednesday, two nurses had a face-to-face meeting with President Donald Trump and Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, when they participated in the administration’s first women in healthcare panel discussion.

After the administration asked us for participants, I suggested two team members. Invited were Lina Varela-Gonzalez, a director of nursing in the emergency department at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, and Steffany Williams, a registered nurse with a critical care background from the central schedule staffing office at Novant Health UVA Health System. Steffany is also the chairwoman of nursing shared governance as well as Novant Health Professional Nurses Council. They briefly heard from President Trump who stopped by for about 10 minutes before Verma facilitated an hour-long roundtable discussion with eight women.

This wasn’t a meeting about the Affordable Care Act. It was a discussion about what’s going on with healthcare in our communities and states – a meeting held in our nation’s capital during a week when the future of healthcare was a hot topic. Lina and Steffany said this meeting was an incredibly exciting experience, and both were impressed with how engaged Verma was as she took notes and asked questions.

Our patients and team were top of mind for both nurses. “We voiced the concerns we’re seeing in the healthcare system and advocated for our patients, as well as team members,” Steffany said. “We spoke about the challenges we have in creating quality care.

“It was important for me to advocate for my patients,” Steffany said. “I’m hopeful that any new care act will ensure that people are able to get the healthcare that they need. We also emphasized how important it is that it’s affordable care. I told them about patients I take care of who have such high out-of-pocket expense that they can’t afford their care in certain instances.”

Concerns about costs were also shared by Lina, who also spoke about how hard it can be for patients to access quality care. “I talked about the impact of patients not having primary care physicians and the strain that it creates on emergency services and healthcare facilities,” she said. “I also touched on the mental health crisis that our nation is facing. Many of our emergency departments are becoming the place for psychiatric treatment for patients, and it affects the quality of care we provide for the behavioral health population as well as the care we provide to our community.”

It’s a real honor to have a seat at the table like this. The White House is looking to us to help set healthcare priorities, and it also recognizes the work Novant Health is doing at the national level.

I commend the administration for realizing how important it is to hear from women who are nurses, physicians, social workers and others closely involved in patient care. Verma’s parting message was encouraging, as well. Our changing healthcare landscape is a work in progress, she said, and the participants at the table should know that the lines of communication are open. This is a conversation worth pursuing. That’s why we are honored to be included. We hope to continue to capitalize on the opportunity to lend our voice to the discussion because increasing access for our patients is our No. 1 priority.

“What you do is remarkable,” the president told the participants. I couldn’t agree more. Thank you, Lina and Steffany, for advocating for our patients, representing the nursing profession and sharing our stories. You represented us well.

Posted on Tuesday, March 28, 2017