Innovation Hero: Dr. Jackie Paykel growing a Whole Health approach

On Dr. Jacquelyn Paykel’s first day at VA in 2014, she found a Slim Jim with a simple message: “If you have a suggestion, we’d love to hear about it!” Paykel was skeptical but told herself she would give it a try.

Paykel is an OB-GYN and Navy Veteran who was originally recruited to start a sexual health clinic for women Veterans. As she began seeing Veterans in her clinic, she noticed a concerning trend: depression. “I was deeply troubled by the profound hopelessness of my patients. I began to ask, ‘Why?’” she said.

Working with the Women’s Center and Women Veteran Program Manager, as well as her patients at the James A. Haley VA in Tampa, Florida, she found the answer: “Veterans needed help finding a new community and discovering purpose after returning from service. And I knew we could provide those missing links,” she continued.

Building THRIVE

Paykel, who is now the chief of Whole Health Service, chief wellbeing officer, and Senior Innovation Fellow in Tampa, began working with her colleagues to develop THRIVE in 2015.

Dr. Jacquelyn Paykel

Dr. Jacquelyn Paykel

Transforming Health and Resiliency through Integration of Values-based Experiences (THRIVE) is a Whole Health clinical program that enhances the health care experience for Veterans. Provided over several weeks in shared medical appointment format, THRIVE has measurably improved the physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing of Veterans.

Receiving support and encouragement from her facility leadership, Dr. Paykel was able to develop a THRIVE training program for employees in 2016.

The Innovation journey

“In addition to THRIVE, my time at Tampa VA has been filled with innovation where I’ve led pilot programs such as the SHIPP Sexual Health Clinic, Whole Health Flagship Service and most recently, the national Chief Wellbeing Officer pilot,” she added.

THRIVE has steadily spread since inception, finding success after three consecutive VHA Diffusion of Excellence Shark Tank applications, and was named a winner of the 2021 Shark Tank Competition. “Sometimes you can’t take no for an answer. You have to just keep going and going,” said Paykel.

Winning Shark Tank allowed THRIVE to gain national attention across VA and tripled their impact in just one year.

Paykel, along with Dr. Candis Connell, a clinical psychologist at Tampa VA and national coordinator for THRIVE, were recently named VHA’s Senior Innovation Fellows for 2023. They are currently developing a national business plan to expand THRIVE beyond the 67 facilities they have reached thus far.

To facilitate the expansion of THRIVE, in April, Paykel and Connell will be presenting their strategic plan to VA leadership. “This will allow us to build up THRIVE and show how we can serve a broader population of Veterans and employees,” Paykel said.

As an advocate of happiness and wellbeing, Paykel is passionate about expanding THRIVE’s reach to VA employees. During training sessions, called Immersions, VA employees can experience the THRIVE approach firsthand.

“This goes beyond burnout,” Paykel noted. “Front line staff are the first to help others and last to take care of themselves. THRIVE promotes self-care at deeper level for employees.”

The next steps

Outside of THRIVE’s success, Paykel is a Whole Health champion in VA. The program aligns with VA’s priorities to deliver the best care possible with focus on whole-person care. Since THRIVE’s inception in 2015, Paykel has seen positive outcomes and an organizational commitment to Whole Health for both Veterans and employees. “My goal is to bring happiness to health care” she said.

As Paykel and her team prepare for their meeting in April, she has a message for Veterans: “THRIVE innovations come from the heart and soul. Our intention is to help attendees transcend a normal life and live one that is exciting and engaging. THRIVE is intentionally evidence-based, but it’s also built off real-life experiences. We are all invested in its success.”

Want to learn more about THRIVE? You can explore its page on the Diffusion Marketplace to learn more about the techniques and spread of this rapidly growing innovation.

Want to be an innovation hero? Visit our website and subscribe to our weekly newsletter to learn more about opportunities for involvement in innovation at VA.

Innovation Heroes is a recurring series from the VHA Innovation Ecosystem, focusing on VA employees who are driving innovation forward and improving the lives of their colleagues and/or Veterans.

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