Caring for our Rural Veteran Population

As the Nation’s second-largest health care system, the Veterans Health Administration has hospitals, clinics, and facilities in every corner of the country. As such, VA is in need of qualified health care professionals to serve the over 40 percent of our Veteran patients living in rural areas, and nearly half of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans from these communities.

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Health care professionals at our rural locations receive the same benefits shared throughout VHA. Whether you’re looking for a change of scenery, or you’re from a small town and want to stay close to home, you can enjoy the benefits of:

  • Advanced facilities
  • Flexible time off
  • Robust liability coverage
  • Generous health, life and retirement packages

Plus, rural providers get additional benefits that are not as common in urban locations, such as:

  • Lower housing costs
  • Less traffic and pollution
  • A slower pace of life and less stress
  • A greater feeling of safety and security in the community

Visit VAcareers.va.gov to learn more and apply today. Also, check out the below featured vacancies:

Nurse Practitioner – Watertown, NY

Psychiatrist – Tomah, WI

Neurologist – Augusta, ME

Social Worker – Elizabeth City, NC

Physician – Grand Junction, CO

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My VA Story

I finally retired from the US Army in 2003 after 20 rewarding years. My out-processing was conducted at Ft. Knox, KY and my retirement physical was at the Louisville VA. I was told they were testing a pilot program, which would evaluate transitioning soldiers for VA Disability at the same time as their retirement physical. I had no idea what that meant. Just a long talk from a VA doctor telling me how made my body was and scolding me for not taking better care of myself. I promised him I would do better now.

After my official retirement date, I received a letter from VA that I was rated at 40% disabled. After trying to figure out what that meant, I learned that that portion of my retirement check would be reduced, but not taxed. A few bucks, but no big deal either way.

In 2008, the economy started to change and I began seeking employment in a more stable industry/company. In my search, I recall talking about Veteran Preference and vocational rehabilitation for those seeking employment with a rated disability. I met with a VBA counselor in Texas and learned I was eligible for VOC REHAB. I took tests and identified that advancing education was a possibility for me due to my business experience. The counselor also reminded me that I was eligible for Veteran Preference with federal positions on USAJobs.gov having a VA Rating of greater than 30%. I reviewed and studied the application process, which led to me being selected for a position at VA in 2008.

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From my own personal experiences to those of my family through the generations, I’ve had my fair share of dealings with VA. I have had the privilege of visiting VA facilities across the country, from Washington D.C. to Tampa and New Orleans, to Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, and LA.  What I find at each VA facility are great Veterans, great communities and great staff health care professionals that want to make a difference.

I would be remiss to not mention that I occasionally find weakness and areas for improvement at VA. I also have experienced private healthcare and have used Tricare for many years, my wife still does. From the inside, I am able to see both sides of VA, as an internal and external customer.

It affords one a unique perspective and allows one to make the life of Veterans just a little bit better. If you’re interested in learning how you can make a difference in the lives of Veterans, and continue the VA legacy, visit VAcareers.va.gov today.

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Research at VA = Improved Health Care for All

When a health care provider joins VA, they will quickly learn that research and development are cornerstones of delivering proactive, personalized, patient-driven health care for our Veterans. Regardless of your profession—physician, nurse, mental health, pharmacy, allied health, dentistry or staff support—you will be working with tools that are the result of best practices in research and development.

researchMVPAt VA Boston Healthcare System, an unprecedented research program is underway that will advance the sophisticated science of genomics. Known as the Million Veteran Program, this initiative will infuse genetic, military exposure, health, and lifestyle information together into one single database.

Authorized researchers with VA, other federal health agencies, and academic institutions within the U.S. will be able to conduct health and wellness studies to improve disease screening, diagnosis, and prognosis and point the way toward more effective, personalized therapies.

On the other side of the country, VA Portland Healthcare System and eight VA facilities were chosen to develop a comprehensive a lung cancer screening system that will provide high-quality care to high-risk Veterans. This effort will enable VA health care providers with information that will help determine best practices for lung cancer screening that may be used throughout the U.S.

Historically, VA research initiatives and end results are tremendous. Among many accomplishments, VA researchers have:

• Pioneered and developed modern electronic medical records

• Developed the implantable cardiac pacemaker

• Conducted the first successful liver transplants

• Created the nicotine patch to help smokers quit

• Crafted artificial limbs that move naturally when stimulated by electrical brain impulses;

• Demonstrated that patients with total paralysis could control robotic arms using only their thoughts — a revolutionary system called “Braingate”

• Identified genetic risk factors for schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and Werner’s syndrome, among others

• Applied bar-code software for administering medications to patients — the initiative of a VA nurse

• Proved that one aspirin a day reduced by half the rate of death and nonfatal heart attacks in patients with unstable angina

VA received three Nobel Prizes in medicine or physiology; seven prestigious Lasker Awards, presented to people who make major contributions to medical science or public service on behalf of medicine. VA also earned two of the eight 2014 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America medals.

During your career at VA you will have opportunities to gain knowledge and work with VA researchers and health care leaders. No matter where your expertise and training falls, you can play an important role in creating innovations that advance health care for our Veterans and the nation.

To learn more about an exciting career at VA, visit VAcareers.va.gov. Also, please check out the latest VA career videos to get an employee’s take on a career at VA.

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VA Truly means Family to Dr. Josh

VA Careers regularly profiles employees in an effort to show job seekers a different side of VA from their perspectives. The goal is to recruit top health care talent by sharing the stories of dedicated professionals who make a difference in the lives of Veterans every day.

Josh is a VA employee who emphasizes that his personal decision to dedicate his career to Veterans is the best decision he has ever made. This is the third of three parts of Josh’s story. Read the first and second parts.

You don’t have to be a Veteran to work at VA, but skilled health care providers who are Veterans are surely welcomed with open arms. Walking the halls of a VA Medical Center, and talking to those who work there, one soon finds out that even if someone is not a Veteran themselves, they often have a Veteran in their lives who they chose to dedicate their career to, whether it be a spouse, a child, a parent or a colleague. Those who work at VA believe in the mission of providing quality health care to our Nation’s Veterans.

Dr. Josh’s grandfather served in World War II and instilled in Josh a commitment of service to others, as well as a deep pride for his country and the values it represents.

His messages to clinicians is that if you care about patients, if you care about serving your country, if you care about working for something that is bigger than yourself, and serving an idea that is more than just health care, there is no other place you should be than VA.

VA a large, complex institution, but at its root it is a core experience between the clinician and the patient in front of them—a Veteran. “Everything that we do is about serving Veterans. And, I’ve never had more fun in my life – this is just the place you want to be,” he says.

Dr. Josh is featured in a Public Service Announcement to bring awareness to VA careers for Physicians and other health care providers. In the PSA, he explains how he honors his country, his family, and his grandfather’s legacy as he fulfills his mission of service to Veterans.

Dr. Josh is a Physician at the Greater Los Angeles Health Care System. In fact, that is where he met his fiancé Jess, who is a Clinical Dietician at VA and who shares Dr. Josh’s dedication for Veterans. Their dedication to Veterans truly is a family affair, and a legacy passed down through generations.

If you are a health care professional interested in learning more about a career serving Veterans, visit VAcareers.va.gov today.

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This is Your Opportunity to be the Solution

VA Careers regularly profiles employees in an effort to show job seekers a different side of VA from their perspectives. The goal is to recruit top health care talent by sharing the stories of dedicated professionals who make a difference in the lives of Veterans every day.

Josh is a VA employee who emphasizes that his personal decision to dedicate his career to Veterans is the best decision he has ever made. This is the second of three parts of Josh’s story. Read the first part here.

When Dr. Josh was evaluating job offers, he will be the first to tell you that VA was not the highest paying offer that he received for similar jobs in other healthcare systems. But to him, it’s never been strictly about the money.

“You can’t pay for an experience, you can’t pay for a belief, for a system that you fundamentally believe in,” he says of the meaning he gets from working with Veterans.

As a young physician with plenty of opportunities, and in light of the current challenges that VA faces, many family and friends questioned his decision to join VA. In fact, the challenges are part of what is propelling him forward. He strongly feels that he and others like him will be part of the solution.

Dr. Josh sees plenty of opportunity to lend transparency, to showcase the work of dedicated healthcare providers, and to help be one of the people that will make this the most responsible, best health care system in all aspects.

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“What I am hoping is to shed a little more positive light on VA in order to bring more transparency, innovation, and a young spirit to an institution that needs it,” he says.

Dr. Josh recently finished his residency in Internal Medicine at VA, and is now an Attending Physician in the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. He feels it’s a great time to be in this specialty due to the demand for primary care physicians, and it’s a great time for a health care professional to be part of an organization that is in a wonderful rebirth mode and join a dedicated team delivering world-class care to Veterans. He feels they deserve nothing less.

VA supports clinicians who are dedicating to doing this kind of work. The VA Advanced Fellowships Programs offer post-residency fellowships to physicians and dentists, advanced training for other health professions, and post-doctoral opportunities for scientists in areas of particular importance to VA and the Nation.

Continuous learning is essential to a health care professional’s ability to provide top-notch patient care. VA understands that and encourages employees to pursue higher education by offering one of the most comprehensive education support programs in the Nation.

Check back tomorrow to read more of Dr. Josh’s story and learn how his family has played a part in his career at VA.

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A VA Physician describes his “Calling”

VA Careers regularly profiles employees in an effort to show job seekers a different side of VA from their perspectives. The goal is to recruit top health care talent by sharing the stories of dedicated professionals who make a difference in the lives of Veterans every day.

Josh is a VA employee who emphasizes that his personal decision to dedicate his career to Veterans is the best decision he has ever made. This is the first of three parts of Josh’s story.

Merriam-Webster defines a “calling” as a strong inner impulse toward a course of action, conviction, vocation or profession.

Dr. Josh, a Physician at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, went into medicine to help people, and he describes his decision to work at VA as his calling to give back to Veterans.

To Dr. Josh, VA stands for something bigger than any individual – it’s more than just a health care system to him. His calling is to uphold the charter that VA promises its Veterans of quality health care.

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“Every day that I am involved in improving the way we deliver care to Veterans, I feel like a million bucks,” he says.

When asked a favorite interviewer’s question “Would you prefer to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond?”, Dr. Josh replied simply that he’d rather be a small fish working to help develop a school of fish. That belief in a team-oriented approach to patient care is what makes him such a great fit at VA, and a strong proponent of the PACT initiative.

The VA Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) initiative assures that each Veteran will workpact together with a team of health care professionals to plan for their whole-person care and life-long health and wellness goals.

This is a concept Dr. Josh heartily agrees with. “It’s not about any one individual health care provider, it’s about how we work together. The question should be how do we together deliver better patient care as a team and in that sense, there is no place I would rather work.”

Check back tomorrow to read more of Dr. Josh’s story and his insight on his specialty and his motivation to grow within VA.

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It Takes a (VA) Village

Written by: Lauren – Guest Blogger sharing her perspective as a VA employee and patient during (and after) her second pregnancy.

I gave birth to my son Hunter at 3:09 p.m. on October 20. He was 10 pounds, 14 ounces and 22 inches tall. I had an amazing natural childbirth, and I am so glad I did. Here he is in all his chubby-cheek glory:

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Everyone always says “It takes a village…” and this is so true when you are going through the post-partum recovery and adjusting to life with a newborn. I know how lucky I am to have an amazing support team; my own little “village” that includes friends that live close and far, family, coworkers and my VA care team!

My VA was definitely there for me post-partum. I sent several secure messages regarding birth control, breastfeeding questions/referrals and follow up appointments. Secure messaging seems extra easy and convenient when you are awake at 4 a.m. with your newborn and you realize you reaaaally need to schedule that chiropractor appointment before you forget (again).

Breastfeeding was going really well during my maternity leave, and I didn’t want going back to work to interfere with how I feed my child. So I needed to be able to pump breast milk at work. I spoke to my supervisor before I came back and we set up a designated space for me to pump and arranged a schedule that enabled me to pump three times a day. It felt really nice to know my supervisor would work with me on this; it definitely made the transition easier.

Overall, I had a very relaxing six weeks of maternity leave, but it did go by way too fast! I was starting to get nervous about adjusting back to the high-paced world of Public Affairs as a mommy of two. I was especially nervous and emotional my first day back. It’s always hard to leave your baby, and I was going to have to get used to pumping at work. Thankfully, all my coworkers were understanding about my transition and have worked around my “baby” schedule, as we call it. That probably means the most to me; knowing that my VA family is 100% supportive of my choices as a working and pumping mother.

According to this article in the Washington Post, the VA’s maternity programs have covered more than 10,000 babies in five years. Covering prenatal care, labor and delivery and seven days of newborn care is a great, priceless service for our female Veterans. I am proud and thankful that my little dude is one of those 10,000 babies and that we have a great “village” of support.

About Lauren

lauren_wLauren is a Navy Veteran and current Public Affairs Specialist at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center in West Virginia. Throughout her second pregnancy, she shared her thoughts and experiences as a patient at VA. You can read her story from beginning here.

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Achieving Equality in Health Care through Award-Winning Research

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.

Dr. Leslie Hausmann recently was recently recognized as a finalist in the Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs 4th Annual Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Awards. Thank you for your hard work and dedicated to our Nation’s Veterans, Dr. Hausmann!

Written by: Dr. Leslie Hausmann, PhD
Core Investigator at the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System
Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

After completing my doctorate in Social Psychology in 2005, I joined VA for what I thought would be a short-term post-doctoral training experience. In graduate school, I had developed research expertise in the areas of stereotyping, prejudice, and intergroup relations. Upon graduation, I wanted to use my expertise to address real-world problems in real settings (i.e., not just in controlled, artificial, lab-based situations).

hausmannphotoThis desire led me to accept a training opportunity in the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP), a research center at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System devoted to identifying, understanding, and eliminating health care disparities across different patient populations based on things like race, gender, income, etc. My reasoning was that working at CHERP for a year or two would give me the chance to learn how to apply my social psychological expertise to research that would benefit real people (e.g. Veterans who are at risk for experiencing worse health care or health outcomes).

What I thought would be a brief training opportunity evolved into a long-term and fulfilling research career as a VA-based health services researcher with a joint appointment as an assistant professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. I had (and still have) amazing mentors at CHERP who helped orient me to the VA health care system and see how my strengths as a social psychologist could best benefit Veterans and VA health care delivery. These mentors supported me as I applied for and obtained career development and research funds through VA–a funding mechanism I did not know existed until I joined CHERP.

All of my work has focused on the long-term objective of ensuring that Veterans of all races and genders have an equal chance of experiencing high-quality and equitable care and health outcomes. Much of my work has focused on sensitive issues such as discrimination and bias, which can be scary topics for large health systems to face, especially when subjected to close public scrutiny. However, despite public perceptions, VA is an organization that constantly strives for improvement, and I have been impressed at how VA has embraced my research program devoted to eliminating health disparities and striving to create a health care system in which all Veterans receive excellent care and are valued equally as patients and as people.

From my perspective, VA is a place that values forward-thinking individuals who are willing to strive for excellence every day. In my experience, VA is interested in delivering high quality and equitable health care to all Veterans, and welcomes individuals who are willing and able to help our organization achieve these lofty goals.

I continue to be impressed by VA’s commitment to supporting multidisciplinary research and development to inform decisions about health care delivery at all levels of the institution. I am happy that I have found a career home in which I can conduct research that can potentially benefit such a large institution and patient population. Anyone interested in pursuing high-impact, health-related research should seriously consider VA as an option.

Leslie Hausmann, PhD
A social psychologist by training, Dr. Hausmann is the recipient of a VA Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) Career Development Award to advance her research concerning patient perceptions of discrimination in the health care setting and the effect of perceived discrimination on interactions with the health care system and health-related outcomes. In her work, Dr. Hausmann has explored how perceived discrimination within the health care system relates to patient-provider communication, treatment decisions about osteoarthritis, overall health status, and utilization of preventive health care services. She is also working to develop and test interventions to reduce the negative effects of discrimination using strategies that target both patients and health care providers. (Source)

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VA: A Family Legacy

VA Healthcare and Benefits over the years have been important to many Veterans and their widows and orphans. VA has been taking care of me long before I even knew it. The sad thing is, it was not until after I started work at VA that I learned of our history and the impact the VA has had on many of my friends and family.

Just going back to 1969, my grandfather (Pa) on my mother’s side passed away. He was a Veteran of the US Army. He was survived by his wife, my grandmother (Nannie), three grown daughters, one son and several of us grandkids. Nannie, who had raised 4 kids and was legally blind, did not graduate from school, did not drive and never worked outside the home. She lived alone and was a big part of all our lives.

My father joined the Navy in 1958 and served for 4 years. I recall reading a letter he sent his mother that he was about to send for money home this month as he had received a promotion and now made $38 monthly. That came in handy, as he was the oldest of five boys, four still living at home on the family farm. In the 70s, I recall Dad using the GI Bill at the local community college to pursue education and to have the extra funds that it offered to improve life for his young family.

In the 80s, my parents divorced and my mother remarried a Korea Era Army Veteran who was rated as 100% Disabled in the 1990s. Then in my senior year of High School, my best friend enlisted into the US Army, referring me to his recruiter. I joined that same month in El Paso, Texas a 13F Fire Support Specialist, Airborne with guaranteed station of choice—Ft Bragg, North Carolina. After I joined, I learned I had the exact job as my stepfather had in the Army.

My great uncle passed on in 2007 and was buried in a VA National Cemetery in Arlington, Texas. I served as a pallbearer. To this day, a 21 Gun Salute will make me jump as my entire body jolts from the startle. I recall my first burial detail was 1985 for my first squad leader in Fayetteville, NC. The honor is still provided today by NCA partnering with many local Veteran Support Organizations.

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After retiring from the Army and accepting a position at VA, I learned that when my grandfather died when I was 4 years old, Nannie was too young for Social Security. My Aunt took her to the VA in Waco, Texas where we all lived and she received a “widow’s pension” that allowed her to receive care. I also learned that VA took care of Pa’s burial all those years ago.

Today, my father receives care at VA in Lubbock, TX. He has been to the main facility in Amarillo, had a cataract removed in Big Springs VA and recently received a mobility chair that he will not stop talking about. He is not always happy with everyone at VA, but he tells me that it is the best-kept secret in the world. You have to follow the rules, but it works great!

My wife’s father (Henry) was an Air force Veteran. He passed in 2010 and we attended his funeral at the VA Cemetery in Riverside, CA. It was a beautiful place and ceremony where we can demonstrate great respect for our fallen family and friends.

My mother’s husband passed on two years ago. As I mentioned earlier, he was a disabled Veteran. They had met and prepared with the local Veteran Service Officer in the county they live, so it was a fairly easily transition for her. The local funeral home billed VA, and did not require her to pay upfront. The VSO submitted her paperwork and in a few months she began receiving a pension for her Husband’s service. She is talking about selling the old place and moving back to Waco after learning that her late husband’s disability rating by VA makes her eligible for a VA backed mortgage, if otherwise qualified.

In 2002, a great Uncle (Uncle Doc) passed on in Odessa, Texas, he was an Army Veteran. I attended the funeral and was asked to present the VA provided flag to my Great Aunt (Annie). I remember choking back the tears, but still recall the privilege to a part of this honoring event.

VA has been very good to me and mine and I am just one of over 300,000 employees that are ready to assist Veterans along their journey. I invite you to join me at VA by applying for eligible positions at VAcareers.va.gov.

Together we make a difference.

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VHA Nurse Recruitment Twitter Chat + You = Engagement!

VHA Healthcare Recruitment and Marketing Office (HRMO) will host a Nurse Professional Recruitment Twitter Chat on Thursday, January 15, from 2:00 to 2:30 p.m. EST. Qualified nursing candidates, especially those with operating room and nurse executive experience, are encouraged to join the chat and connect live with subject matter experts who can answer their questions about VA nurse vacancies and how to apply.

Health care professionals who are familiar with Twitter and have a Twitter account will find it easy to join the chat. All you have to do is sign in and tweet your questions about vacancies, the application process, benefits, etc. and be sure to use the hashtag #workatVA.

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If for some reason you are not able to participate during the official chat times, you can still tweet comments and questions, and someone from HRMO will respond and make contact with you. You can also send your resume to VHAadvertising@va.gov and reference the Nursing Twitter Chat.

This form of micro-blogging with messages posted in 140 characters or less is one of the most effective ways for health care providers to directly meet and engage with HRMO staff, National Recruitment Program Consultants and subject matter experts at our VA Medical Centers. And this venue is a completely free service that is easy to use, and is a worthwhile investment in terms of time and effort for those in the nursing profession who are seeking employment at VA and the opportunity to serve our Veterans.

Nursing candidates should be aware that at any time they can access VAcareers.va.gov to learn about job vacancies at VA, how to apply, identify recruiter contact information and download digital brochures on nursing careers at VA.

“I highly encourage anyone in the nursing field considering a career at VA and the honor of serving our Veterans to join us for the VHA Nurse Recruitment Twitter Chat,” said Regina Balzy, Nurse Recruiter at VA Boston Health Care System. “You’ll get immediate feedback and you will meet VHA employees who are anxious to help get your career in VA started.”

Remember, if you can’t attend the VHA Nursing Twitter Chat on January 15, 2015, from 2:00 – 2:30 p.m. EST, you can still sign into your Twitter account, link up at #workatva and ask your questions. You can also forward your resumes to VHAadvertising@va.gov.

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