Reflections from a Third Generation VA Employee

The core values of VA – Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence – describe the exemplary behavior of VA’s dedicated staff that provides proactive, personalized, patient-driven health care for our Veterans. The personal stories of VA’s health care and support professionals are many, and they inspire us all.

Many VA employees have provided their stories on how they live the I CARE values in the performance of their duties. We will be highlighting these stories on the VA Careers blog, as well as our social channels, and encourage you to comment, share, and send in a story of your own!

Written by: Hillary Garcia

The goal of working for VA was ingrained in me throughout life, being the daughter of a VHA Environmental Management Service Chief and a granddaughter of a VHA Canteen Chief.

While in college, my friends were eyeing private sector jobs and I stayed interested in what VA had to offer. After graduation, I started my journey in VHA as a Technical Career Field intern in Human Resources. Most of my friends moved on to many jobs and struggled to find one to which they had an emotional connection.

I have worked in two different medical centers and am now a VISN15 employee, assisting HR offices in our network to improve processes to hire the best quality providers we can for our Veteran patients. We are teaming with Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment representatives to improve the number of Veterans hired at VA. The most rewarding thing about my job is helping individuals find employment with VA, seeing employees find a true lasting passion for Veterans in the work they do and honoring my late grandfathers and step-grandfather—Veterans of WWII, Vietnam and Korea.

Every interaction I have—walking through our hospitals, smiling at patients and employees—I hope to embody the kind of personal connection that I would have hoped my grandfathers received. It is an honor to serve those who served!

My Message to Potential Health Care Candidates:

The application process to work at VA is thorough—and it should be. We want vetted, focused applicants ready to commit to our values because we greatly value patients. I encourage you to consider really exploring the meaning of our mission here at VA; there really isn’t anything like it. Every day, we see faces of the women and men who have served in the hallways of our hospitals as reminders of why all who work here so passionately commit to keeping the promise to those who have served.

I value and support VA and tell everyone I encounter about the great work I see here when talking about my career. You can look into another hospital, but you’ll find it doesn’t stack up to the impact our Veterans have on those who are privileged to work for them.

I certainly will keep the energy I have until the day I retire from VA—our patients deserve it!

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VA Employees Make a Difference—Together

Working together, the men and women of VA give our Nation’s Veterans the critical health care they need to live fuller, more active lives.

This spirit of complete care and healing is the subject of VA’s latest TV commercial – “Together VA.” Airing on broadcast and cable networks nationwide, it features Dana, a Veteran and co-founder of an amputee surfing group, who learned to surf again thanks to his treatment at VA.

“Together VA” shows the dedication behind our mission of serving the millions of Veterans who turn to VA each year. Filmed in Los Angeles at the Sepulveda VA location, the commercial features only VA employees, such as doctors, nurses and physical therapists—real health care professionals who make recovery possible.

Stories such as Dana’s and the VA employees who made his recovery possible are important to share as we work toward our goal of recruiting the country’s best and brightest health care professionals.

Visit VAcareers.va.gov/togetherVA to learn more about the unique benefits of a career serving our Nation’s Veterans. If you are a current VA employee, send us an email with your story for choosing a career at VA.

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VA Mail-Order Pharmacy Gets Top Marks

VA pharmacists play an important role in the care cycle of our Veterans. From dispensing critical medication to participating in clinical research studies, they are a vital part of the VA health care system.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Department of Veterans Affairs Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy (CMOP) has scored the highest in overall satisfaction in the J.D. Power National Pharmacy Study, Mail-Order segment.

“VA’s first-class pharmacy services are an important component of the exceptional health care available to our Veterans,” said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, Interim Under Secretary for Health. “We are proud to learn from our Veterans through this study that VA is delivering on that commitment.”

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With nearly 9 million Veterans enrolled, VA operates the largest integrated health care delivery system in the United States, and as such, employs over 6,000 pharmacists. Our pharmacists have unique opportunities, like running disease-based clinics and participating in clerkships.

In addition to comparable pay, we offer a collection of benefits not found in the private sector, such as generous loan repayment benefits and up to 26 vacation days when you join our team.

If you are interested in joining our award-winning pharmacists at VA, visit VAcareers.va.gov to learn how you can apply your skills and experience to serving our Nation’s Veterans.

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VA Announces: Increased Scheduling Flexibility for Physicians and Dentists

At VA, we believe in a strong work/life balance, which is why we offer generous vacation time for our physicians and dentists, as well as a more predictable work schedule. This commitment to our employees’ satisfaction underscores our mission to provide the best care to our Nation’s Veterans.

On Friday, November 7, 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced a change in the administrative workweek for Physicians and Dentists, increasing scheduling flexibility for facilities and employees alike.

Before the policy change, doctors and dentists were required to work five 8-hour days a week. Due to their pay and overtime structure, it was difficult to staff extended hours or shorter, weekend clinic hours.

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Now facilities can continue to schedule the basic workweek as five 8-hour days, or schedule the required 40 hours over 7 days with tours of duty or shifts between 2 hours and 12 hours. The schedule can vary every week. This allows physicians or dentists who stay later or who come in on the weekend to work a clinic to have a shorter day elsewhere in the workweek. For example, an individual could be scheduled to work 12 hours on Tuesday but then only have a 4-hour day on Friday.

VA is consistently working to attract and retain top healthcare talent by modifying and modernizing our system. If you are interested in pursuing a rewarding career at VA, with more time off for your personal life, visit us at VAcareers.va.gov to apply!

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Career Spotlight: Chief of Mental Health in Sunny El Paso, TX

Are you an experienced mental health care provider with an interest in growing your career and a passion for serving Veterans? The El Paso VA Health Care System in El Paso, Texas is looking for a full-time Chief of Mental Health to join their team.

In this role, you will manage a department of over 100 VA employees and handle the administrative oversight of two community-based outpatient clinics, a growing tele-mental health presence, and other programs. But this position is not purely administrative—you will have the opportunity to use your clinical background as a member of a multi-disciplinary team, working collaboratively with nurses, social workers, clerks, mid-level providers, and physicians.

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El Paso is the 6th largest city in the state of Texas, with a population of 700,000. Nestled between the rugged Franklin Mountains and the historic Rio Grande, this dynamic community combines the advantages of a major metropolitan center with the ambience and neighborly charm of a western town.

El Paso provides abundant cultural and entertainment opportunities, year-round sports and outdoor recreation, the lowest crime rate of any major city in the continental US, and some of the best weather conditions on the planet. The sun shines 300 days a year! It has affordable housing, an extremely favorable low cost of living index, a medical school, several universities and a community college. People from all over come here to live, work, gather for business and retire.

To learn more about a career at VA and to apply directly to this position, visit VAcareers.va.gov.

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Veterans Day 2014

Every November 11, we recognize Veterans Day as a special time to thank the brave women and men who have served our Nation.

This year, we hope that you join us in honoring Veterans, by taking the spirit of “Thanks” and turning it in to an action. Whether supporting a Veteran’s job search through encouragement, working at a community support group, or even volunteering with the Department of Veterans Affairs, you can make a difference in the lives of those who have given so much to help so many.

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To share our unified message of thanks on Veterans Day, join the Thunderclap.

After participating, we encourage you to learn more about how you can commit yourself and your family to making a difference where you live. As a health care professional, you can explore career opportunities by visiting VAcareers.va.gov. Veterans Day may be once a year, but your support doesn’t have to be.

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VA Leadership Sets Example for Recruiting

VA Secretary Robert (Bob) McDonald has made health care recruitment a national priority.

In talks around the country with residents, interns and potential health care candidates, the Secretary has positioned himself as a mentor: he’s there to lend advice and he’s ready to listen. And while he is just one person, he is setting an example for all VA employees to share their stories with those interested in working at VA and explain to all health care professionals why VA is a great place to work.

“I see leadership of VA as an opportunity to improve the lives of men and women I care deeply about. There is no greater calling,” said Secretary McDonald.

Bob speaks with Howard University third year internal medicine residents Hakeem Ayinde and Nnaemeka Madubata. (@deptvetaffairs Instagram)

Bob speaks with Howard University third year internal medicine residents Hakeem Ayinde and Nnaemeka Madubata. (@deptvetaffairs Instagram)

Several senior officials in VA demonstrate their commitment to this calling of serving our Nation’s Heroes through their own outreach efforts. Like Secretary McDonald, their goal is to engage qualified health care talent and encourage them to be part of the VA model of providing proactive, personalized, patient-driven health care for our Veterans.

Dr. Karen Sanders, Deputy Chief Academic Affiliations Officer for VA, oversees the largest health professions education program in the United States, inclusive of nearly 120,000 trainees annually in more than 40 different health professions. In addition to sharing her experiences with residents and interns on the VA Careers blog, she is actively involved in the “Take a Closer Look VA.” campaign.

“Take a Closer Look VA.” is a national effort focused on keeping the nation’s best and brightest at VA—from their training as interns and residents in to the early stages of their careers. It focuses on the many benefits and unique opportunities that make VA an employer of choice.

“VA has an academic culture with many different career opportunities – teaching, research, patient care, administration,” Dr. Sanders said. “You can create a career that matches your interest in VA.”

Shawanda Poree, Director of Healthcare Recruitment Marketing (HRMO), seized the opportunity to talk about exciting careers at VA while she was providing technical assistance to the HRMO and a production crew during the filming of VHA’s newest T.V. commercial at VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (GLA) last month.  As a result of Poree’s one-on-one networking, two nurses have shown an interest in working at VA and are submitting resumes through job announcements at VAcareers.va.gov.

As you can see from the demonstrated leadership of Secretary McDonald, Dr. Sanders and Ms. Poree, recruitment is a shared responsibility for all who work at VA. Whether you are a physician, nurse, administrative assistant, chief of staff, or a public affairs officer, you can have a positive impact in delivering proactive, personalized, patient-driven health care for our Veterans. All you have to do is reach out to health care professionals and those within their circles of influence and talk to them about VA and the privilege of serving our Veterans.

VA Careers will continue to feature VA employees and leadership recruiting engagements in this blog series. If you or someone you know is actively involved in VA health care recruitment, please tell us your story.

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Taking Away the PTSD Stigma

We recently lost another Veteran to suicide. A much needed spotlight was put on VA’s need to provide care to every Veteran who seeks it, but the question remains: How do we make it okay for Veterans suffering with PTSD to reach out and ask for help?

From birth as a Soldier, we are trained to “embrace the suck.” Ruck up and move on. While serving, we rarely seek help for fear of ending a career. As a Veteran, we read headlines about “crazy” Veterans with PTSD. Many do not want that stigma attached to them.

First called a disorder, then attributed to anger and a problem for Veterans at large, it is no wonder that mental illness is not tended to by the individual, even when that care is available.

There is no shortage of homes in America, yet we have a homeless population. Is it that we are battling the wrong issue? I believe homelessness, like suicide, is about mental health, not access.

We all play a part in seeking care for ourselves, for our families and for our Veterans. If you are a Veteran or a Provider, take the stigma away from PTSD. There is no shame in seeking help, care or whatever we want to call it. As soldiers and as Veterans we know as well as anyone that the chain is only as strong as the weakest link. We are a team, and any loss belongs to us all. So reach out to Veterans and make sure they are doing well. Talk to them about serious concerns and make sure they are seeking care, at VA or anywhere.

There shouldn’t be a stigma associated with seeking treatment.

For this reason, VA is working to change the stigma of PTSD and make sure every Veteran has access to quality care and is not shy about using it. To join us in spreading the word about Mental Health care at VA, and making a real difference in the lives of Veterans, learn more and apply today at VAcareers.va.gov.

If you’re a Veteran in crisis or know a Veteran who is, click here or call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. To learn more about available resources for those suffering with PTSD and other mental illness, click here

 

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Kathleen Frisbee, MPH, PH. D – I CARE in Action

VA employees demonstrate the I CARE values of Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence every day in their roles in VA facilities across the country. Their stories are compelling, and tell a unique story of what it’s like to work at VA.

Recently, Kathleen L. Frisbee, MPH, Ph.D., VA’s co-director of Connected Health, was recognized as a leader in her field when she was named one of the Top-10 influential women in health IT by FierceHealthIT for 2014.

She was awarded this distinction specifically for leading VA’s Mobile Health initiative, where she oversees the development of mobile health apps for Veterans and providers, and for shaping the vision of how VA can use mobile technology in the future.

Of her work, she says: “Connected Health is a relatively new office within VA, but the concept of virtual care has been around for more than 10 years. We are noticing a paradigm shift from the traditional office visit within the walls of the VA medical centers to a patient-centered model of care where we are leveraging technology to empower the patient.”

Dr. Frisbee has worked in health IT leadership roles across VA for over 25 years. Her commitment is evident in the way she talks of her work, and she’s also an advocate for a career at VA, explaining the immeasurable benefits of a position focused on improving the lives of Veterans.

“VA has provided me with tremendous opportunities over my 25-year career. The work is challenging and the rewards are great. More importantly, a career at VA is incredibly satisfying. Your accomplishments provide the chance to improve the lives of the men and women who served to protect our freedom,” she says.

She is also optimistic about the current health care climate, and VA’s unique position to drive change and innovation in the industry.

“It is an incredibly exciting time,” she says. “More and more within VA, there will be career opportunities for health care professionals to be health IT leaders, utilizing technology and collaborating with our IT teams to set the future course for VA’s health care delivery.”

Dr. Frisbee and her colleagues promote innovation at VA.

Dr. Frisbee and her colleagues promote innovation at VA.

Thanks to the efforts of Kathleen Frisbee and many other dedicated employees across VA, we are evolving technology to help our Veteran patients live healthier, more adjusted lives. If you want to join our team of game changers, learn more at VAcareers.va.gov!

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VA is hiring! Now what?

I’ve heard the above question a lot lately, and it excites me—because I can answer it!

In the book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” I came across a concept known as the Circle of Concern vs. Circle of Influence. The Circle of Concern is the all-encompassing large outer circle that many of us focus on each day (world hunger, politics, environment, the next President, the weather, etc.). The Circle of Influence is a much smaller circle, closer to home, that each of us has influence over. What time we go to bed, how many jobs we apply for, how we dress each day, our attitude, and what career path we choose, falls within our oversight of “self.”

The challenge to this concept for each of us is to examine what you can do instead of focusing on those worries over which you have no control.

Let’s talk VA Scandal. No, let’s not. I have no influence on that, although as a Marketing Manager, it concerns me. How it impacts our mission, the stress it places on our staff and leaders and a feeling of embarrassment when I see these stories repeatedly. As a Veteran, the scandal does not sit well for me. I have good friends that use the VA, including myself. I know first-hand the challenges we read about on a daily basis.

What I can influence is Recruitment Marketing. VA is Hiring! If I do my job well, VA will meet our mission of caring for Veterans. There are no more important people in Veterans Health Administration to me than the health care professionals who care for our Veterans. The rest of us at VA support them. By being in control of what we can do, we demonstrate a total team approach to delivering proactive, personalized, patient-driven health care to our Veterans.

Health care professionals and support staff make a difference in Veteran care.

Health care professionals and support staff make a difference in Veteran care.

If you would like to part of the VA team of health care professionals and support staff providing care to our Veterans, visit VAcareers.va.gov to learn more about opportunities to serve Veterans at VA. If you are media, be sure to include the Call to Action to learn more at our career site TODAY! Thanks!

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