VA names Preston Vets Home administrator
As construction on the Preston Veterans Home continues toward a spring completion, officials from the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) met with community advocates on January 10 to provide an update and introduce administrator Dave Dunn, who joined MDVA November 9, 2022.
“I am honored, blessed and excited to have been selected to lead the new Veterans Home in Preston,” Dunn said. “As a 15-year Veteran of the U.S. Air Force, I look forward to caring for veterans and making this their home.”
Introducing Dunn, MDVA Deputy Commissioner — Healthcare Douglas Hughes said, “We had great candidates who applied for this role, but the interview panel was most impressed by Dave’s compassion for veterans and providing them the highest quality of care.”
Dunn has held his Nursing Home Administrator license since 1998 and lived and worked in the Rochester area since 2018.
“I look forward to enveloping myself in the Preston community,” Dunn said. “I want to be a servant to the community as well as to the Veterans Home.”
Construction is 80% complete and on schedule for the 54-bed skilled nursing facility, according to MDVA Commissioner Larry Herke. The home is located on a 15-acre bluff-top site surrounded by a 200-year-old native white oak forest. The home’s temporary address has been clarified as 905 Windmill Road and is subject to change pending the completion of a new entrance road which is now under construction.
The first residents are expected to be admitted in mid-June. Since MDVA began accepting resident admission applications in September, 58 veterans and five veteran spouses have applied. To be accepted for admission, residents must be:
Discharged under honorable conditions from any branch of the U.S. armed forces and a current resident of Minnesota, who served 181 consecutive days on active duty, unless discharged earlier because of disability incurred in the line of duty.
The spouse of an eligible veteran who is at least 55 years old and meets residency requirements.
Able to demonstrate a medical or clinical need for skilled nursing care.
County Veterans Service Officers are available to assist future residents with the admission application process. Email inquiries to email@example.com.
Dunn will lead a team of more than 160 full- and part-time employees. The staff will be hired over the next six months. He acknowledged the challenge of hiring during the current workforce shortage and believes the home offers competitive wages and generous State of Minnesota employee benefits.
Dunn’s first hire was Director of Nursing Valerie Ness, who started in her new role on Jan. 4. Ness has worked as a nurse in long-term care for 30 years and as a Director of Nursing for the last 19 years. She is passionate about long-term care and committed to providing the best environment for both the residents and staff.
Current recruitment efforts are also focused on leadership roles for Human Resources, Business Office, Building Maintenance, Assistant Director of Nursing, Clinical Education, and Health Information. Most frontline staff will be hired in late spring.
Job openings will be posted at mn.gov/careers. Employment inquiries can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Our goal is to encourage more community members to explore a rewarding career in long-term care and to improve the workforce shortage for all facilities,” said Simone Hogan, Senior Director — Veterans Healthcare for MDVA. “We want to draw more attention to the workforce shortage in this industry. Our hope is that new employees to the Veterans Home will make this their career and be here 25 years from now.”
Despite the recruitment challenges, MDVA officials are confident that staff will find the Veterans Home a great place to work. The staffing ratio between employees and residents is lower than other facilities, allowing staff and residents to really get to know one another and provide more continuity of care.
During a tour of the construction site, Knutson Construction Project Manager Derek O’Connor highlighted many of the home’s amenities including the private residential units with private baths that are split into three, 18-resident “households,” providing a more homelike atmosphere. There are numerous windows throughout the facility to bring in natural light. Public spaces include a Town Center featuring a small coffee shop/cafe, theater/meeting room, family dining room, meditation room/chapel, and club room.
Until the facility is completed, Dunn and other staff will work from community office space. The Administrator Office is located at 216 Main St. and the Recruitment and Training Office is located at 144 Main St., both in downtown Preston.
For more information, visit the MDVA website at MinnesotaVeteran.org/FutureHomes.
Photo: Dave Dunn