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The Visiting Nurse Associations of America joins hundreds of organizations across the country in celebrating National VNA Week, May 10-16, 2010. Regardless of where you work, at a traditional VNA, another nonprofit agency, or even a for-profit agency, as a clinical professional reading this article, you embrace the single most important principle we promote during National VNA Week: compassionate, patient-centered care for your patients.


True enough, VNA Week is largely devoted to promoting the special role that VNAs and other nonprofit agencies play in their communities. As community-based organizations governed by community volunteers, these nonprofit agencies respond to community needs in unique ways, filling gaps left in an otherwise well-functioning system by, for example, treating patients with special needs or who lack health insurance coverage. These agencies often provide a wide range of public health services, including immunizations, maternal and child healthcare services, and education programs to help community members stay healthy. VNA Week offers an opportunity to honor and celebrate the leading role these agencies have played in establishing home health's role in the first place and helping to keep it viable during recent years of reimbursement changes and rapidly shifting expectations for all of healthcare.


But, that focus on the founders of home healthcare is only part of VNA Week. Whether you work at a VNA or not, you care for patients and it is the quality of that care and the deeply embedded sense of compassion and patient empowerment that you bring to your care that is the true centerpiece of VNA Week. When you take time to teach your patients techniques for self-care, you are helping them achieve long-term health goals. When you take the extra effort to make sure your patients understand their care plan, you are engaging them as partners in their recovery and rehabilitation, showing them the respect they deserve. By profession, you put other's needs first-you save lives, ease suffering, and comfort families and the dying. It's the strength of that relationship between caregiver and patient that we celebrate during VNA Week.


Your work in the home is poorly understood by the media and the general public, which means that VNA Week is an important opportunity to tell the story of what you do. For the most part, home healthcare professionals are humble and modest about the good work they do, which is commendable. However, you have powerful emotional stories to tell and people want to hear them. Strike up a conversation with a stranger at a coffee shop or community event. Reach out to members of the media or potential donors and tell them the ways in which home healthcare goes beyond traditional patient care. People want to hear "feel-good" stories. Tell them about the homebound patient you visit, how you are the only person she sees all week, and how you go beyond your professional duties by sitting and talking with her, checking her diet, and clearing a path for her to get to the bathroom. Enlighten them about the hours of phone calls you make to doctors, therapists, caregivers, and families members, all to ensure that your patient has a workable care plan. Describe to them what it was like to provide assistance to patients during that natural disaster in your hometown-how when your homebound patients were unreachable by phone you drove through broken tree branches and flood waters to ensure that they not only had the medical supplies they needed but also had running water and electricity. Explain to them what it means to a patient who receives months of treatment in their own home and sleeps in their own bed versus in a hospital room.


Let VNA Week be the starting point for you to begin telling your stories and experiences. Be proud of the compassionate care you provide to your patients and never underestimate the power a positive story can have on a person. Telling an emotional story about the type of care you provide could persuade someone to choose your agency over another, bring in new revenue, or even inspire someone to become a home healthcare nurse. There is no better time than now for you to do a little self-promoting. VNA Week offers an opportunity to not only raise awareness about your profession but honor and celebrate the professionals who sustain it.