Tomah VA Medical Center
Tomah VAMC Director Slected for Service Award
Ms. Victoria Brahm won the Sammie award for Federal Employee of the Year, the top honor. When she arrived at Tomah in 2015, she faced a negative work culture, low employee morale, and a crisis of opioid over prescription to Veteran patients. In the four years since she arrived, her work to improve employee engagement and promote non-opioid alternatives to pain management earned her this prestigious award.
To boost employee engagement, Ms. Brahm listened to employees and took their concerns seriously, making changes based on their feedback. She initiated the “VA Voices” program, which teaches employees to reengage with VA’s mission while building trusted relationships between coworkers and the Veterans they serve. Facing a growing state-wide problem of registered nurse turnover and shortages, she developed a plan to boost retention by regularly checking in with new nurses during their first year. The result was a 65 percent reduction in registered nurse turnover across five quarters and an improvement of 35 positions in VA’s national rankings.
Spurred by the tragic opioid overdose death of a Marine Veteran under Tomah VA care, and determined never to let another tragedy like that happen again, Ms. Brahm tackled the opioid issue head on by expediting the implementation of the Tomah Pain University, an interdisciplinary pain management program targeting non-opioid alternatives to reducing pain and improving function. This approach to pain management contributed to a remarkable 59 percent reduction in the number of Veterans receiving opioids and other prescription pain relievers at Tomah.
As VA moves to a Whole Health approach to health care, Tomah has engaged more than 6,000 unique Veterans in Whole Health services and conducted 1,200 encounters for Whole Health coaching in just one year under Ms. Brahm’s leadership. She and her team continue to engage with the community to expand services and involve Veterans more proactively in their health care through yoga, tai chi, healing touch, battlefield acupuncture and other offerings.
As a credit to her leadership, Ms. Brahm praises the Tomah team, VA senior leadership, and the support of her family for making the turnaround of Tomah VA possible. Thanks to her leadership and the strong team around her, Tomah is now a recognized and respected medical center attracting Veterans from across the United States for customized treatment in a healing, restorative environment.
You can read full award write ups on the Partnership for Public Service website.