How One VA Hospital Sold Its Veterans & Staff on Guided Imagery

We want to give a full, noisy, enthusiastic shoutout to the Hines V.A. Hospital in the Chicago area, for being the very first VAMC to offer a customized streaming page of guided imagery and meditation audios – private, portable, and accessible 24/7 - to Iraq and Afghanistan war Veterans and their families. The streaming page and the program are called Veterans for Wellness.

All a listener needs is a smart phone, laptop or any other device that can link to the internet, and the ability to click on PLAY.

Eileen Hurn, MSN, RN, the Polytrauma/TBI Nurse Educator who shaped the program, chose guided meditations that specifically address Sleep, Pain, Grief, TBI, Posttraumatic Stress and Addiction.

Eileen brings a singular passion and missionary zeal to her work, having survived the death by suicide of her Veteran husband in 2013. Her able and equally dedicated collaborator, Manny Villareal, LCSW, is a combat Veteran social worker who experienced the trauma that comes from war zones - different, but just as intense and painful.

Both have in common the fact that guided imagery was a major factor in their healing. This is what propels and motivates them, and what makes them such convincing advocates.

Eileen, says, We’ve promoted it [the Veterans for Wellness streaming page] within the hospital… AND we asked our healthcare staff to use the page themselves, so they can sincerely recommend it to others. And because the page offers unlimited usage very affordably, we encourage ALL Hines VA employees to use it.”

Hurn and Villareal crafted a very persuasive flier to distribute, but most tellingly, Eileen reports, One of the most effective ways we encourage adoption has been the one-on-one interaction we have with Veterans, letting them know how the guided imagery has benefited us personally.” 

The program has enjoyed wide success, especially in the Pain Clinic, Patient Care Teams, Mental Health services, Vet Centers, Physical Medicine & Rehab, and VA Supportive Housing for the Homeless. Hurn and Villareal say it’s very exciting to see hundreds of Veterans using it. (The streaming page delivers back-end aggregate statistics, so they can keep track of general usage.)

Now they are looking to expand their reach throughout VHA. They’ve even entered Veterans for Wellness in the VHA Shark Tank Competition, sponsored by VHA Innovation Experience. So far, they’ve made it to the Semi-Finals. If they win, they get more cash for expansion.

In the listener evaluations that are requested on the streaming page, Veterans have written (this is verbatim):

  • This stuff is a game changer in my life.
  • This helps me sleep.
  • Love these.
  • I listen as I fall asleep, and it really helps me sleep better. I wake up with a better attitude too. 
  • Great audio. 

Bottom line: We salute the creativity, inventiveness and persistence that went into creating and disseminating the Veterans for Wellness streaming guided imagery page at Hines, and most especially the commitment of Eileen Hurn and Manny Villareal to serve those who have served us all, sometimes at great personal cost. We are honored and delighted to be part of this project.