New VA clinic to open Monday

A nurses' area is visited during a special tour of the new Veterans Clinic on Friday at 3430 W. Edgewood Drive. The clinic officially opens to the public Monday and is undergoing finishing touches.

Jefferson City's new Community-Based Outpatient Clinic opens Monday morning.

The Department of Veterans Affairs facility, at 3430 W. Edgewood Drive, will increase the clinic footprint from 7,625 square feet to 10,476.

The opening comes after a half-mile move from the previous location, at 2707 W. Edgewood Drive.

Derrick Hensley, operations manager for primary care at Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital, and Heather Brown, the hospital's strategic partnership officer, toured the new facility with the News Tribune on Friday.

The facility buzzed with activity as construction workers put finishing touches on the structure and VA staff set up monitors, computers, phone systems and work stations.

The new clinic offers 10 primary care exam rooms, four more than were offered in the old location, Hensley said as he began a tour of the U-shaped facility.

In a hallway just past a reception area for patients, workers have inset a wheelchair scale into the wall. Hensley smiled as he described the location of the scales.

"It's perfect. It's not sticking out into the hallway, which is what you usually see," he said. "It was really nice of them to build that in because we didn't include that in the statement for the work. They saw this space, and they roughed it in for us."

A "flexible room" set aside for growth can be used for special procedures, Brown said. It would be a place where a nurse might be able to give a patient an inoculation without having to take up an exam room.

A counter-clockwise traverse of the "U" takes people along primary care exam rooms, mental health rooms, telehealth, optometry and audiology.

Physicians, LPNs and others will be co-located in Patient Aligned Care Team work areas. In the PACT model of health care the VA uses, personalized team-based care focuses on wellness and disease prevention.

"The patients know who their doctors are. They know who their nurses are," Brown said. "They know every single time who they're going to be talking to, and the doctors know their history."

Tim Turner, a U.S. Army veteran and an LPN at the clinic for the past eight years, said he loves his job.

"I actually came back from Iraq and lost my job," Turner said. "I decided to go into nursing and got hired for about a year out here in Jefferson City."

The VA later asked him to come on staff permanently.

Turner, who lost his hearing in Iraq, said he receives auditory examinations and treatments at the clinic.

"(The new building's) got a lot of bugs," he said. "The computers."

But staff were working through them Friday.

The old clinic had one podiatry room. The new structure has two. The new structure also offers a women's health exam room, something the old clinic did not offer.

Those changes, expansions on behavioral health, and the addition of conference rooms where veterans can participate in group therapy reflect the changing face of the VA, Hensley said.

The VA's new program aimed at creating healthier lifestyles for veterans is called Whole Health for Life.

It takes a new approach to health care, Brown said. With traditional "sick medicine," patients come in to see their doctors when they're sick. Doctors give patients medicine and send them home. They don't come in again until they're sick again.

"We want to stop that. We want you to come in to see us when you're healthy," Brown said. "What we do is talk to you about why your health is important to you."

If someone's health is important to them, they're more likely to take better care of themselves.

The VA has coaches who will walk patients along a path of what's healthy for them.

"We look at your spiritual health, your physical, your emotional, your community," Brown said. "It's a great program."