Delivering Excellence

Reprinted from PN January 2012

Top spinal-cord-injury researchers gather for inaugural PVA Summit, discuss the advancement of spinal-cord medicine and healthcare.

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Early in my nursing career I was recruited to work in a spinal-cord injury (SCI) unit for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Being a new nurse in spinal-cord injury was a challenge. Nursing school didn’t prepare me for the uniqueness of caring for patients with SCI.

During my time at the SCI unit, I received a scholarship from Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) to attend a conference for the Association of Spinal Cord Injury Nurses. I learned valuable evidence-based knowledge I was able to take back to the bedside to care for SCI veterans.

The conference also provided me a group of professionals I could network with who shared my common interest. I was so appreciative of the funding PVA invested in me that it motivated me to pay it forward. A proverb that inspired me was, “Remember who planted the tree when you eat the fruit” (anonymous). I am passionate about wanting to make a difference for the spinal-cord injury/disorder population.

Coming Together

Currently my role at PVA is to lead a team that advocates for people with spinal-cord injury/disorders to ensure the quality delivery of healthcare services for veterans. I was appointed to lead the planning for the inaugural Summit 2011: Delivering Excellence, Achieving State-of-the-Art Health Care, which took place September 16–18, 2011, at Orlando Renaissance Resort at SeaWorld. PVA was able to offer 600 scholarships to physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers, and psychologists to attend the Summit. 

During the Summit many positive comments were received, such as “What a great idea to have multiple sclerosis clinicians present about patient outcomes in a spinal-cord injury conference.” Another comment was, “As a neurologist treating patients with multiple sclerosis, it is very beneficial to network with spinal-cord injury clinicians and share ideas and practice.” 

Nurses approached me with their appreciation of receiving scholarships. Many of these nurses had not been able to attend a specialized conference in the past. It validates PVA’s core mission statement to use their expertise to be the leading advocate for quality of care and to support research and education, addressing spinal-cord injury and dysfunction.

Bridging the Gap

PVA recognizes there is a lack of coordination in the care for patients with SCI and with spinal-cord disease, such as multiple sclerosis (MS). Some MS patients lose bowel and bladder function and mobility as their disease progresses. PVA wants to bridge the gap between SCI and neurology clinicians who are caring for this unique patient population.

The Summit 2011 provided a venue to gather the greatest minds that treat patients with spinal-cord injury and disorders to come together so they could work out some of the problems they were facing and share information. Working together, we can make tremendous advances in our understanding and enhancement of spinal-cord medicine and the care of those with spinal-cord injury or dysfunction.

Summit 2011 was a huge success, as it provided world-class professional education and networking opportunities. Approximately 700 clinicians from across the nation came together to discuss the advancement of spinal-cord medicine and healthcare.

The Summit offered attendees three days of focused discussion and opportunities to advance spinal-cord medicine and care delivery at the bedside. Topics covered included management of chronic pain in MS, and the progress that’s been made over the past 30 years; sexuality and reproductive health in adults with SCI; and repair of the injured spinal cord and brain.

Moving Forward

Preparation has already begun for Summit 2012, which will be held at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas on August 28–30. We are planning another great conference with renowned world-class speakers. And we don’t want “what happens in Vegas to stay in Vegas!” The goal is for clinicians to take the invaluable information they learn back to the bedside to improve the care of people with SCI. 

In order to provide quality, integrated coordination of care we need to see a marriage between multiple specialty groups. Summit 2011 was the first of many opportunities to advance treatment and potential for finding a cure for SCI.

For decades, PVA has been the leading advocate for veterans with spinal-cord injury/dysfunction to receive exemplary healthcare. PVA continues to work toward alleviating the effects of and finding a cure for SCI through the efforts of the PVA Education Foundation, the PVA Research Foundation, multiple partnerships, and the Consortium for Spinal Cord Medicine’s evidence-based clinical practice guidelines and consumer guides. I look forward to all contributions in making a difference in the lives of others, not just to live, but living with health and hope.

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Scuba Science

Exploring the underwater world is proving to have benefits beyond recreation for people with spinal-cord injury (SCI).


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