After his military service, Jude Martinez knew his future would involve a medical career. But he was unsure what that might look like. After joining the New Mexico VA Health Care System as a human resources intern in 2010, Martinez was given the opportunity to move into a position with the emergency department. His experience there further solidified his decision to pursue a job in medicine.
While working as an Intermediate Care Technician (ICT), his mentors introduced him to the VA National Education for Employees Program (VANEEP), a scholarship that pays employees’ tuition and salaries so they can pursue clinical licensure while working at VA. Now, Jude works in a fulfilling career as a Registered Nurse serving his fellow Veterans.
In this installment of our #ChooseVA Careers blog series, Martinez discusses how VA’s education support programs helped him choose his current career path and why fellow Veterans should explore a VA career.
What is your primary job at VA?
I do preprocedural work ups on patients for cardiac catherization’s diagnostic/interventional procedures, pacemaker placement and electrophysiology. During these procedures, I administer the conscious sedation, monitor vital signs and heart rhythms, and intervene as necessary.
With my history as a Vet and working as an ICT, I’ve always dealt with a lot of critically ill patients. My experience has helped me with critical thinking on the job and with responding to different issues that I encounter day to day.
What was appealing about a career at VA?
I‘m a Veteran. When I had just gotten out of the military, I didn’t really know what to do. I knew I wanted to stay in medicine, but I wasn’t sure in which capacity. So, I showed up at the New Mexico VA Health Care System and started a work-study in human resources. When the opportunity opened up to work in the emergency room, I applied for it, and I worked there for about seven years.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I like taking care of Veterans — I enjoy it. I’m a Veteran as well, so I think I have a little bit more skin in the game. I also like trying to change the perception of VA. I think some of the care gets overshadowed by what’s reported in the media.
Were you already working at VA when you heard about the scholarship program?
I was. I had always known about it, but I was a little reluctant to choose nursing. I didn’t know if I wanted to be an RN. But once I got into the ICT program and my scope expanded, it helped change my perception of nursing. Then, working in the cath lab with its scope of practice, high level of care and the autonomy it affords its nurses was a real eye opener for me. Working with (ICT Program Director) Tim Gruber and (Chief of Cardiology) Dr. Michelle Ratliffe shifted my career toward nursing. Once I did that, I went right into VANEEP.
What school and program/degree did you decide to pursue with your scholarship funds? Did you have plans to pursue this track regardless of the VA scholarship?
The VA scholarship helped solidify my decision. I was originally thinking med school, but the opportunity presented by the VANEEP scholarship worked better for my life. It gave me freedom to pursue my education. Nothing compares to it.
(Through VANEEP, VA employees who are enrolled in school full time can receive a full salary and up to $40,117 toward the cost of higher education, including tuition, registration fees and books. The program provides tax-free scholarships and replacement-salary funding to accelerate the completion of a degree in an approved academic program for a Title 38 or hybrid Title 38 occupation.)
How did the scholarship help you complete your training?
It gave me the time to do it so that I wasn’t overwhelmed by work and school. It gave me not necessarily a safety net but one more reason to do it. I felt so supported by Tim Gruber and Dr. Ratliffe. It helped knowing that they had the confidence in me to do it and that they supported me. It was also comforting to know that I would have a job when I got back.
What would you tell other healthcare professionals who are interested in choosing a career at VA?
VA is a great place to work! It’s rewarding and the nurses get a lot of autonomy. The patients are great. There are challenges, but I don’t think you’re going to be able to take care of these kinds of patients anywhere else. Especially a group who’s contributed so much to our country.
Choose VA today
Provide nursing care to Veterans while advancing your education with VA’s VANEEP scholarship. See if a VA career in nursing is right for you.