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. Carol 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

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

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!

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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 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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I CARE in Action

In a changing world, VA’s core values of Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence (I CARE) provide an enduring description of our culture and the quality of service  VA  provides to Veterans. These values aren’t new—VA employees live by them every day—but formalized, they provide a clear path to our success in fulfilling our mission “To care for him who shall have borne the battle.”

From his appointment as Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald has reestablished the importance of living by the I CARE values.

“I am convinced that it is critical that all of us at VA reaffirm our commitment to our mission and our values. Our commitment to serving Veterans must be unquestioned. Veterans must know that we are “all in” when it comes to accomplishing our mission and living by our values,” he says.

Every single employee at VA plays a critical role in supporting the overall vision and mission of VA—to better serve our Veterans, their families, and caregivers—and also contributes to our professional reputation as a caring and quality organization.

I CARE logo final

VHA National Recruitment Program consultants and the staff of VHA Health Care Recruitment and Marketing can attest to the importance of the I Care core values in attracting qualified health care candidates to VA.  For many health care providers, working in an environment where integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence is the driving force in providing personalized, proactive patient-driven health care to VA.

In the weeks leading up to Veterans Day, VA employees who demonstrate I CARE core values in their daily interaction with Veterans and coworkers can share their stories on the VA Careers blog.

Please share your own story in the comments below!

 Watch Secretary Bob’s video below, and learn more about his commitment to I CARE.

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VA Careers Supports Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This October, VA is proud to participate in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point. This makes breast cancer a serious concern for women Veterans.

According to Dr. Sally Haskell, Deputy Chief Consultant and Director, Comprehensive Women’s Health, “The good news is that localized breast cancer has a 99 percent survival rate if detected early, and VA leads the nation’s health care systems in providing mammograms to those who need them.”


VA encourages all women between ages 50 and 75 to get mammograms every two years. VA encourages all women to talk with their provider about breast health and when your health care provider recommends a mammogram outside of that age range — VA will provide it.

Breast cancer risk varies among women. VA care teams help determine when patients should start receiving mammograms and how to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.


All VA medical centers have a Women Veterans Program Manager to help women Veterans access VA benefits and health care services.

Women Veterans can call 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636) to ask questions about available VA services and resources. Want to know more? Check out VA’s dedicated resources for women Veterans: Women Veterans Call Center

Additional resources on Breast Cancer Prevention:

If you are a health care professional who is interested in providing care for Veterans and would like to explore opportunities working with the women Veteran population, visit to learn more.


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Peer Support Specialists Save Lives: Suicide Prevention Month

Every Tuesday in September, we focused on raising awareness for mental health and suicide prevention in the Veteran community in honor of Suicide Prevention Month. For our final post in this series, we are featuring an article that first appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of VAnguard, a VA publication focused on the contributions of employees. The story follows the work of VA Peer Support Specialists, a vital asset to the patient-centered care team. Read on to learn more.

Sarah Oury is a former Army captain who now works as a peer support specialist at the San Diego VA. In her own words, her primary job is to simply share her personal story with her clients. “It can be very therapeutic for them, and for you,” she observed. “Doing this job helps you work on your own self-recovery. Because recovery is never a done deal. It’s always an ongoing process. I’m still mending some of my own relationships.”

There are 11 peer support specialists at San Diego and roughly 800 at VA sites nationwide. They represent VA’s newest and perhaps most promising strategy to get Veterans struggling with mental issues to come in for help.

Peer Support Specialist Sarah Oury (Right) shares a story with Veteran Naomi Winley at the San Diego VA. Photo by Christopher Menzie, San Diego VA

Peer Support Specialist Sarah Oury (Right) shares a story with Veteran Naomi Winley at the San Diego VA. Photo by Christopher Menzie, San Diego VA

“Peer support specialists are unique, because they’re the only health care providers in VA who are trained to use their own life experiences to help their clients,” explained Dr. Christine Rufener, a staff psychologist who runs the peer support program at San Diego. “As a psychologist, I’m not able to do that because of ethical issues related to doctor-client boundaries.

“Your peer support specialist,” she added, “is someone who’s made it to the other side. They’ve recovered from their own mental health challenges, so they’re in a position to instill hope.”

‘Hope’ is something Phil Clough is just now beginning to get a grip on. The Navy Veteran was the victim of military sexual trauma back in the 1980s, and spent years drinking and drugging to numb the pain.

“When I came to the VA for help, I was shattered,” he said. “I was suicidal. I was homicidal. I had a lot of anger.”

But then a peer support specialist named Eric showed up at his side.

“When I first met Eric, we talked for about an hour,” Clough said. “When I come to the VA now, the first person I ask for is Eric.”

The Navy Veteran said he now has three peer support specialists who are helping him stay on course during his treatment program at the VA.

“They did the one thing that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t do. They put me back together. I still have a long way to go. I’m damaged. But if I need them I know they’ll always be there for me.”

And when you’re a peer support specialist, ‘being there’ sometimes involves more than just showing up for work at the office.

“In some cases I’ll actually go out to the Veteran’s house,” said Oury. “Sometimes, when you’re that depressed, you can’t even get out of bed. So you certainly can’t get yourself in to the VA. Someone needs to come to you. If that’s what it takes, that’s what I’ll do.”

Rufener said this kind of dedication, however, can be a double-edged sword. “These are highly motivated people,” she observed. “They got the help they needed from VA, and now they’re very motivated to help other Veterans. But this is not easy work. It can be stressful, which is why we continue to support them.” (Source, Written by Tom Cramer)

If you are a mental health professional interested in serving Veterans, visit to learn more about mental health careers, view openings in your area, or talk directly to a recruiter.

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Lauren’s Story, Part 11: Counting Down the Days

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

Well, I had my final ultrasound this past Thursday, and it seems as if Baby Hunter is going to follow in the footsteps of his brother and be another “big baby” and have lots of hair! I am at peace with this, because I believe that my body was able to have a large baby once, and it can do it again!

Here is a picture of me and my first son…can’t wait to capture this moment with baby Hunter!

Here is a picture of me and my first son…can’t wait to capture this moment with baby Hunter!

There have been a lot of things on my mind these past few weeks such as: back pain, nervousness, “false” labor, more back pain and the overall feeling of just wanting my little man to be here! I know I am in the final weeks, but these final weeks seem to be taking forever. Which I am pretty sure is normal in pregnancy.

All in all, once again I have to say I have had an amazing support system. Not just with family and friends but also with my VA care team and fellow staff members. My VA chiropractor has been so patient and kind with me, and I feel like I have greatly benefited from having chiropractic care during this pregnancy. My VA social worker still calls and is providing me with great information about breastfeeding and what my post-partum care will be like. My VA primary care provider has been having phone appointments with me about different birth control options, and they are all so excited for me and want to see pictures of the baby once he is born.

It is great to know they have still been so actively caring and involved during this process. I also have to say my fellow VA employees have been supportive, awesome and caring as well.

With the support of my family, my VA family, my midwives and my doula I feel 100% ready to have this baby and become a mommy of two. I just need to be patient for another few weeks until baby Hunter decides he is ready! Thank you all for reading. I will do another post once I return from maternity leave sometime in December.

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 will be sharing her thoughts and experiences as a patient at VA. We are all excited to follow her on this healthcare journey!


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To College or Not to College

That is the big question. Do you need college? Maybe not, there are programs such as, and training for welders, auto technicians and other trade workers, all of which one can use the GI Bill for. Maybe one has experience gained from on-the-job training (OJT) or military training. There are many career choices that do not require college today.

A college education is an investment in your future, and for future generations.

A college education is an investment in your future, and for future generations.

With that said, many of those jobs are physical and labor intensive—often great for young adults in their prime and good health. But what happens when an injury or illness impacts your ability to hold a weld line in 90-degree weather? Or if you are like me, you spent your younger years abusing your body and the wear and tear has caught up to you. I was watching a program on TV last week that featured Fort Bragg’s Airborne training. The instructor informed the guest that the equipment for a 150 lb. person, would likely be about 250 lbs. What long term impact would that have on a hard working Veteran? And this is just one small example of the ongoing abuse Veterans inflict upon our minds and bodies.

So approaching 50 now, I saw three options for myself. Get a degree that allows me to have a well-paying office job, start my own business or win the lottery. I was fortunate—I had previous experience that allowed me to get hired into a Program Manager position without a degree. However, seeing the light, I enrolled in college and completed a Bachelor’s Degree as I never wanted to be in the position of seeking a career without one again. It was tough. I have now realized that if I desire to remain competitive with my peers and grow, I will likely need to pursue a Masters as well.

I am sharing this with fellow Veterans as I am seeing a common trend. Either we get to college or we do not. If we do not, it may be because we do not believe in college education the same as private sector. It may be we are fearful of sitting in class with non-Veterans. We may disagree with some academic teachings that place science higher than all else. Or it may be that we are just lazy.

I love Clint Eastwood, but when Gunny was asked what college he went to and he replied “Heartbreak Ridge,” he did no soldier a favor. While I value my military experience over college and any other position I have held, I believed those words for decades and that attitude has limited many a Veteran since.

Another dilemma I have seen many struggle with is online vs. on-campus education. No matter your thought on it, many Veterans want one on-campus class only to be able to receive the full the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). Online only cuts in half the BAH and many forego even starting, “hoping” for a better time to start on-campus classes. If you want to be on-campus, do it now. If that does not work for you, then online-only is fine, and the BAH is an added benefit that will help. I attended college online full-time with a full-time job and a wife and kids, etc. There are no more excuses, pick your degree, your school, and get that degree. You may be surprised how much you learn about yourself and your interests. I find myself more excited to learn now than I was before.

Lastly, we need Veterans to be the next leaders of America. Politicians, CEOs, Hiring Managers. Just as the World War II Veterans changed America with the GI Bill, we owe it to our future Veterans to pave the way before them to make their transition that much smoother than ours.

Ruck up, and get/stay in college!

PS: Before you give your future to your kids, consider this.

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Team Huddles: Not Just for Football

As you’re watching your favorite football team play this season, take a moment to recognize how important huddles are to winning a game. When it comes to efficiency and teamwork, football players offer VA employees a valuable lesson: A quick huddle can ensure everyone is on the same page.


At the VA North Platte Outpatient Clinic (pictured) daily morning huddles include all clinic staff members and focus on reviewing the day’s schedule. It’s a time when the team can meet together and accomplish a lot in a short period of time.

Barbara J. Wenz, Nurse Manager at the clinic where this team approach is utilized explains, “The morning huddle takes no more than 3-4 minutes. All schedules are reviewed. It is clarified who is very booked, who may have more room in their schedule and who is on the road seeing patients, etc. As a result of this huddle, there is widespread knowledge of clinic capacity that day. This assists all members of the team to be aware of what capabilities there are.  Also, providers are very cooperative about seeing each other’s patients as needed.”

Team meetings are important no matter what industry you’re in, but it’s especially vital in health care, where members of a care team are providing different aspects of care to a patient throughout the day. For VA employees, being on the same page is critical, and can make all the difference in improving both the access to, and quality of care that a Veteran receives.

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