Houston VA medical center uses simulation to amplify ‘End Harassment’ campaign - VHA SimLEARN
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Houston VA medical center uses simulation to amplify ‘End Harassment’ campaign

By Racquell R Garrett, DNP, RN, CMSRN
Lead Clinical Instructor, Simulation Lab

Rola El-Serag, MD
Medial Director
Women Veterans Health Program

Alana Nagin, MS, RN
Clinical Instructor, Simulation Lab
Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center

HOUSTON – The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) in Houston started an End Harassment campaign in April in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It is every employee’s responsibility to ensure that Veterans feel safe when receiving care at the VA. The educational training was led by Dr. Rola El-Serag, medical director of the Women Veteran’s Health Program, in collaboration with the Simulation Teaching Assessment Resource (S.T.A.R.) lab (MEDVAMC simulation lab).

All staff could participate, but the goal of this particular training was to raise employee awareness of the significant prevalence and impact of sexual harassment of female Veterans on health care quality and experience at VA facilities, as well as to provide all staff with the necessary tools to intervene when witnessing sexual harassment or when it is reported later. Ultimately, the long-term goal is to achieve a culture change at VA sites of care where Veterans receive care in a safe, healing environment.

The simulation staff was involved in the development of simulation scenarios with the goal of demonstrating what sexual harassment is and the appropriate strategies to use when intervening. Four scenarios were developed to meet the objectives. The first scenario demonstrated what harassment may look like at the VA. The other scenarios demonstrated various intervention strategies for staff to take when assisting a female Veteran being harassed. Comments from several employees about their appreciation for the use of simulation to demonstrate harassment and how to intervene was value added to the training. The goal of using simulation was to make the training more interactive and allow learners to communicate why they thought a scenario was harassment or not, and how they would handle the situation. There has been an increase in requests to use the simulation team in a non-clinical scope since initiation of End Harassment Training.

Over 2,000 employees have attended the training so far, including senior leadership, nursing staff, program support staff, environmental management staff, doctors and VA police. The campaign and training resulted in helping staff see and report harassment or inappropriate behavior more effectively.

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