Each day, VA’s health care providers and staff reaffirm their commitment to America’s fellowship of Veterans through the implementation and practice of ICARE—the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Core Values of Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence.
These values not only enrich the VA model of providing proactive, personalized, patient-driven health care and services to Veterans and their families, but also provide a common ground of behavior from one VA employee to another.
Shawanda Poree, RN, BSN, MBA knows this for a fact. Throughout her career—as a nurse, a nurse recruiter and as the Director of the Health Care Recruitment and Marketing Office, Poree is a beneficiary of ICARE practices and has successfully implemented these values in service to Veterans and to fellow VA employees.
Born and raised in New Orleans, LA, Shawanda started her career at VA upon graduation from New Orleans’ Dillard University after earning two degrees in pre-med and nursing.
“At the time I graduated in the late 90s, there was not a nursing shortage. So it was very difficult for me to find a job as a new graduate,” she says.
A neighbor who lived across from Shawanda was a nurse and told her about nursing opportunities at VA.
“I was familiar with VA but was not aware of the extensive gambit of care that VA provided,” said Shawanda. “After learning more about VA and the opportunity to serve our Veterans, everything fell into place for me.”
Shawanda’s neighbor referred her to a colleague who worked at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (SLVCS) in New Orleans. After an interview, Shawanda was hired for a position of graduate nurse technician at VA New Orleans.
“I really liked the idea that they saw enough in me to hire me before I even received my nursing license. I started as a Medical Surgical student nurse,” said Shawanda.
Like many young professionals fresh out of college, Shawanda began to have second thoughts of working at VA after a few months.
“It was an antiquated system and the care provided was nowhere near what it is today in terms of the level of quality.
“I did share my concerns about my future with my supervisor, but what I really appreciated—and has become the Omnibus of my career—is that my supervisor at the time did take the opportunity to sit down and listen to my concerns,” said Shawanda. “She questioned that if I really wanted to make a difference, then why not stay and be part of the solution as opposed to just walking away.
“And so from that moment on, it really turned my perspective around as to what I really wanted to do as a nurse at VA,” Shawanda added.
“My supervisor told me she would give me the tools and the resources I would need and help me get into an environment where I could flourish,” said Shawanda. “And she did that.”
Shortly thereafter, Shawanda’s supervisor nominated her for the VA intensive care unit training course. After graduating from the course, Shawanda found herself working in the surgical intensive care unit.
“It shows there are people who CARE,” said Shawanda. “As a young, new employee, just being able to share my concerns, share my thoughts and to have somebody really listen was a valuable asset that I think VA as an organization continues to offer.
“Even though we have formalized ICARE now, I feel that many of the core values have been the cornerstone of VA for many years,” she says.
This is the first of a three part series that covers Shawanda’s career at VA, from her first introduction to ICARE in action, to embracing career broadening opportunities and demonstrating practices in leading the VHA health care recruitment effort.