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Sheridan, Montana VA Health Care Systems Partner With Hospitals In Billings

Montana VA Health Care System

A new partnership will allow veterans enrolled in the Montana and Sheridan VA Health Care Systems will provide veterans access to an onsite VA nurse  when they are hospitalized at the Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare.

The nurses will be connected with veterans once they are admitted to the hospitals and help to arrange things like follow-up appointments and physical therapy during their hospitalization and after discharge.

Private hospitals and VA hospitals have different processes and can differ greatly, so the switch can be hard for veterans to navigate by themselves, said Sheridan VA Director Pam Crowell.

"Having someone wearing a VA badge, who is a VA employee, I think, raises their comfort level and assures them that they're going to go back to their home facility with a good hand-off, good discharge, good follow-up appointments. And really I think that's what veterans worry about when they are hospitalized," Crowell said.

Nowell Hoff, a nurse who will be in this position, said the position is much more than just nursing.

"I get to not only collaborate on their care on their care team, but I also have the privilege of being able to advocate for them when they may not be able to advocate for themselves, or if they don't understand the specific language in relation to their care," she said.

Crowell said that veterans sometimes have to go to non-VA hospitals for specialty care that smaller community hospitals or the VA can't provide.

"This adds additional speciality services in a coordinated way, where we really bridge the gap between the private sector and the VA, where the hand off is good and the veteran is taken care of and doesn't have to worry about what happens next after a hospitalization," she said.

Around 50 thousand veterans are enrolled in the Montana and Sheridan VA's and have the opportunity to use these partnerships.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler, at cwheel11@uwyo.edu.

Catherine Wheeler comes to Wyoming from Kansas City, Missouri. She has worked at public media stations in Missouri and on the Vox podcast "Today, Explained." Catherine graduated from Fort Lewis College with a BA in English. She recently received her master in journalism from the University of Missouri. Catherine enjoys cooking, looming, reading and the outdoors.
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