For more than 10 years, Valerie Rodriguez-Yu, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, has served in nursing positions at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She is now Associate Director for Patient Care Services/Nurse Executive (ADPCS/NE) at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, after being in the deputy role for three years. Based in San Antonio, Rodriguez-Yu is a key member of the executive leadership team, serving as senior nurse adviser and consultant, responsible for areas such as Nursing, Social Work, Sterile Processing, Chaplain Services, Recreation Therapy and Nutrition/Food Services for the South Texas system.
In this installment of our #ChooseVALeadership Careers and #FemaleLeaderFridays blog series and as VA prepares to attend the American Organization of Nurse Executives annual meeting in April (find us at booth 132), Rodriguez-Yu explains her role as nurse leader and why she chose a VA career.
What is your primary job at VA?
I serve on the executive leadership team and as a senior adviser and consultant for the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, which is an active ambulatory care program with multiple outpatient clinics. The system is comprised of the Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital, Kerrville VA Medical Center and the Satellite Clinic Division. We are a 567-bed facility providing primary, secondary and tertiary health care in medicine, surgery, psychiatry and rehabilitation medicine. We have a Community Living Center, Spinal Cord Injury Center, Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center, and a Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center.
How long have you been in this particular job?
I started my VA career in 2003 as a Registered Nurse at the VA San Diego Healthcare System. In 2005, I relocated to Alexandria, Virginia, where I managed a Brain Injury Unit. I returned to VA in 2008 to serve as the Outcomes Coordinator for the Spinal Cord injury Center in San Antonio. In 2010, I was elected Associate Chief Nurse for Polytrauma/Spinal Cord, where I was responsible for nursing services within the Polytrauma System of Care and Spinal Cord Injury Center. In 2015, as Deputy ADPCS/Nurse Executive, I oversaw more than 1,300 full-time bargaining unit employees, guiding the overall management of the profession and practice of nursing. In 2018, I was promoted to ADPCS/NE.
What was appealing about a career at VA?
As the spouse of a retired Marine, I was driven to the mission of caring for our nation’s heroes. Additionally, as a nursing student, I had several clinical rotations at VA. I was so impressed with the teamwork and mutual respect among all disciplines. When I graduated from nursing school, working for the VA was an obvious choice. I wanted to be part of the elite VA team!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is hearing about the experiences of our Veterans and staff. The Veteran’s perspective reaffirms that VA is the best place for our Veterans to receive care. Also, when I observe how empowered and forward-thinking our frontline nurses are, it really makes me proud to work at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.
How has VA helped you grow in your career?
VA has been instrumental in my career development. From mentorship programs to executive leadership development programs, VA has been influential in my professional success. I am supported through conference attendance, detail opportunities, Pathway to Excellence Program participation and succession planning. There are several dedicated programs that have facilitated my professional advancement. VA invests in its employees and encourages nurses to build a lifetime of experiences so that we can provide the best care to our Veterans. (Learn more about leadership opportunities for VA nurses in the Office of Nursing Services brochure (PDF).
What are a few key benefits of working at VA?
Some key benefits include an impressive amount of paid time off, the Federal Employees Retirement System, Thrift Savings Plan and, one of my personal favorites, the benefit of making a difference in the lives of our Veterans.
What do you find most surprising about working at VA?
The most surprising thing for me was how well-respected nursing is among our physician peers. I have worked in organizations outside of VA, where the dynamics were very different and where nurses did not necessarily have a voice. VA is very collaborative!
What story do you most often tell people about your work?
I most often tell people that I love working for VA because when a Veteran needs something, VA does everything in its power to make it happen. When the Veteran is at the center of all that we do, you can never go wrong.
What would you tell other nurse leaders interested in choosing a career at VA?
Drown out the “noise” and hearsay about VA. Come work with us, and I promise you will find that we are innovative, that we embrace evidence-based practice and that we provide outstanding care. All those things make VA a great place to work.
What else would you like us to know about your work?
My career at VA is fulfilling, and I have felt supported in every role. I am respected and valued as a member of the executive team. VA values align with my own, and it is rewarding to be among the best places to work, where everyone is willing to give a little extra to get the job done.