Ryan Wyatt is the first paramedic Intermediate Care Technician (ICT) with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Southern Arizona VA Health Care System. Wyatt was the Acting Leading Petty Officer (ALPO) in the Emergency Department, Yokosuka, Japan, from 1992 to 1994. After four years of service in the U.S. Navy as a Hospital Corpsman (HM), it was time for separation. The transition back to civilian life was not easy. There was no ICT program in the 1990s, and Wyatt accepted jobs he was overqualified for or that were outside his expertise. When the chairman of the Emergency Department suggested starting an ICT program at his VA facility, Wyatt jumped at the chance to apply his medical skills in a new career, train others and serve as he once had as a Navy Corpsman.
In this installment of our #ChooseVA Careers blog series, Wyatt explains why he was attracted to a VA career as an ICT after military service and why he thinks other transitioning military professionals should consider working at VA.
What is your medical background?
I am a former Navy Corpsman who worked in the Emergency Department and on an ambulance. I have over 10 years of experience flying rotor wing aircraft as a Certified Flight Paramedic (FP-C) both stateside and in Iraq with Blackwater and DynCorp. I am a paramedic instructor at a community college and also work in a level I trauma center, where I started an ultrasound IV program.
What is your primary job at the VA?
My primary duties include working with the Emergency Physician in the Physician in Triage (PIT) area drawing labs, starting IVs, performing and reviewing EKGs, suturing wounds and providing emergency wound care, airway management and ultrasound IV placement.
How did you learn about the ICT position?
I work in the only level I trauma center in southern Arizona as a patience care technician (PCT) II and was approached by Dr. Joshua Appel, Chief of Emergency Medicine at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System. Dr. Appel told me about this new ICT program that was specifically targeted to prior service medical personnel. I thought that this was too good to be true. The ICT program Dr. Appel wanted to get going would have the ICTs working under the medicine care line, so our scope of practice would extend to be commensurate to our military scope of practice. I was sold!
What would you say to Veterans that are coming from the military about an ICT career at VA?
I wish this program existed in 1994! When I got out of the Navy, there were no jobs that I could do that had the excitement of what I did in the Navy without having to go back to school. The training and experience that the military provided did not translate to civilian practice. I was a long-haul truck driver, worked as a bee exterminator and worked in a primary pediatric practice before putting myself through paramedic school to do the same things I did in the Navy. The ICT program offers a variety of positions within the VA system across the country. The ICT program allows medically trained transitioning service members to continue what we do best, which is taking care of our military family. Working at VA also allows the ICT to buy back their military time for retirement.
What are the Veterans saying about VA ICTs?
Since I started in the Emergency Department at VA, the response from my patients has been overwhelming. When they learn that I am prior service and contracted in Iraq, they really feel a connection. I have had many medics, marines and Veterans who were saved by their “Doc” shake my hand and say, “thank you.” This experience has been very rewarding to me.
Does the ICT program foster innovation?
Yes. The ICT program is one of the few adaptable positions within VA. The scope of practice is adjustable based on the care line of your supervisor, the department in which you work and new practice. For example, I am starting a robust ultrasound IV team in our Emergency Department. I will be training ICTs and nurses on how to start ultrasound-guided IVs to benefit those with difficult vascular anatomy. This is a practice-changing skill backed by evidence-based medicine to increase patient satisfaction, decrease multiple IV attempts, decrease door-to-drug delivery times and increase provider satisfaction. The knowledge base that the ICT can bring to the VA is truly endless.
What separates working at VA from other jobs?
Working with the Veterans is the number-one benefit of working at VA. Listening to their stories from Vietnam, Korea and other more current situations is therapeutic for both the Veteran and myself. It is like being back in the military, but with the added benefit of going home every night. The facility is beautiful and clean, and everyone, from administrators to volunteers, constantly welcomes the Veterans with a smile. I feel at home when I am at VA.
Why would you recommend the ICT program at VA to other separating service members?
The ICT program is ever changing and can accommodate a variety of skill sets that our separating service members can transition right into. The vernacular at VA is often the same as what we use as active duty service members. The team mentality is that we can change our patient’s outcomes by providing a positive experience in some of the worst times of their lives. ICTs practice advanced skills learned throughout their military career and gain additional skills. Helping to teach our patients, our fellow ICTs, our nurses and our providers is an added benefit of working at VA.
Any final thoughts?
I would like to thank Kristina Snell, the first ICT, from the VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System in Cleveland for having the vision and drive to start the ICT program. I would not be in this position if it was not for Kristina.
In addition to helping Veteran patient care, this program has helped countless medically trained Veterans find corresponding civilian work within the VA system.
Choose VA today
The ability to use his advanced military skills while treating Veterans led Wyatt to choose a VA Career. See if an Intermediate Care Technician position at VA is the right choice for you too.