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Alumna’s Witaya Care program wins Allina Best Care award

The Witaya Care team at St. Francis Regional Medical Center. Jane Peterson DNP’13 is holding the award. Brian Prokosch is on the far right.
The Witaya Care team at St. Francis Regional Medical Center. Jane Peterson DNP’13 is holding the award. Brian Prokosch is on the far right.
Photo courtesy of Allina

An award-winning healthcare program that started as a student research project at St. Catherine University continues to attract attention. Witaya Care at St. Francis Regional Medical Center recently won a 2014 Allina Best Care (ABC) Award, presented to individuals and teams for making a significant difference in the care of patients.

As a student in St. Kate’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program, Jane Peterson DNP’13 wanted her research project to address healthcare disparities among Native American communities. She had ties with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) and collaborated with them on a healthcare needs assessment.

Peterson identified initiatives that could facilitate better trust in healthcare providers for members of SMSC. She brought her findings to key medical staff at St. Francis Regional Medical Center, in the hopes of partnering with the hospital — and her efforts eventually led to the establishment of Witaya Care

One of those key St. Francis staff members was Brian Prokosch, vice president of medical affairs. He saw Witaya Care as a great match for the Catholic hospital’s mission.

“Jane’s a very creative, innovative and collaborative leader,” says Prokosch. “It’s been fun working on a groundbreaking project with her to extend healthcare services in a different, more integrated way to members of the tribal community she serves.”

Peterson currently serves as family nurse practitioner and Witaya Care coordinator for the Shakopee Dakota Clinic in Prior Lake.

“Witaya,” the Dakota word for “coming together” brings together members of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community with healthcare resources at St. Francis by:

  • adding a care navigator to help facilitate the care process;
  • integrating medical records; integrating imaging services so medical images can be shared between the tribal clinic and hospital;
  • identifying preferred physicians to treat SMSC patients, creating a consistent approach to care;
  • educating leaders, nurses and staff about the unique healthcare preferences of tribal members; and
  • developing relationships to meet mental health and chemical dependency needs.

Before Witaya Care, if an SMSC member got sick, the person would have likely gone straight to the emergency room, explains Peterson.

“But now they call our patient navigation team, which goes out and determines whether we can care for the person at home. We then follow-up with that person the next day,” she says. “Through Witaya Care, we are able to keep people out of the emergency room or urgent care.”

The program is also more cost-effective because by integrating electronic medical records, they can avoid duplicating diagnostic tests that have been done by another provider, adds Prokosch.

Over 50 SMSC members are enrolled in Witaya Care at this time. Peterson’s team is now looking at data to determine the provisional cost savings during 2014.

Earlier this year, SMSC signed a memorandum of agreement with St. Gertrude’s, a facility adjacent to St. Francis which offers acute rehabilitation, long-term and hospice care.

“We want to ensure collaborative partnerships that address all levels of care, from primary to specialty needs,” says Peterson.

Prokosch calls the program a “transformational” model that St. Francis is working to extend within the Somali, Hispanic and Russian communities in their service area.


Related content:
Alumna's program wins Minnesota Hospital Association award 


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Dec. 23, 2014 by Sharon Rolenc

See also: Alumnae/i, Catholic Identity, Healthcare, Leadership, Social Justice, Students