In 1975, with the Vietnam War still fresh in the minds of the American public, most high school senior graduation plans did not include joining the U.S. Army. But for eighteen-year-old Virginia “Ginny” Warren, the North Texas daughter of a cotton farmer, the Army looked like an ideal path. Much to the chagrin of her father, Ginny Warren had just set forth on a 44-year journey from soldier to VA Nurse.
“The Army offered me a way to broaden my horizons and to learn,” said Warren, Nurse Manager at VA North Texas Health Care System.
Warren began her military career with two-years in medical administrative field before spending the next twenty-two years as a medic with the U.S. Army Reserve’s 94thCombat Support Hospital, based in Seagoville, Texas. With a primary mission to take a 150-person deployable hospital anywhere in the world and be ready to receive casualties within 72 hours of arrival, Warren continuously trained for the opportunity to apply her talents while developing a new passion to become a Registered Nurse (RN).
Through her career in the Reserves, the Army sent Warren to licensed vocational nurse (LVN) training and Warren quickly realized she had an aptitude and attitude for nursing. Warren went on to attend the University of Texas at Tyler School of Nursing to become a RN and was subsequently commissioned in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps.
“I had to find my place as a new nurse and new military officer,” said Warren. “I had a lot to learn, but I felt I had a lot to offer as well.”
After becoming an RN, Warren brought her health care experience to VA and joined another family of nursing professionals at VA North Texas in 1997.
In 2003, Warren’s Reserve unit was called upon to deploy to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to treat wounded servicemembers straight from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. The ability to muster tremendous internal strength and compassion, coupled with her many years of training to deploy on a moment’s notice, was exactly what the soldiers, Marines and airman she treated would need to make their next journey back stateside to recover with family and friends.
“I vividly remember leaning over this big sergeant, hugging him, and whispering in his ear that it would be okay, and the pain won’t last,” said Warren.
Warren would go on to give more than 40 years in uniform, retiring as a field grade officer in 2015.
With over 22 years of service as a VA nurse, Warren now walks the inpatient wards of the Dallas VA Medical Center where she once served as junior nurse, as a manager and mentor to a new generation of nursing professionals who rely on her expertise and experience to care for many of the 134,000 active patients who use VA North Texas for their health care each year.
“Nursing is not just a career, it’s a passion and a devotion,” said Sheila Wise, VA North Texas Nurse Manager, and herself a retired U.S. Army Nurse. “To bring that passion and devotion to the service of our Veterans the way the Ginny has, and continues to do every day, for as long as she has, makes her an inspiration and a guiding figure for our nursing team. She makes all of us better.”
While eighteen-year-old Ginny Warren could have never foreseen the impact she would have on our nation through her service to military servicemembers and Veterans over 44 years, the nearly 3,000 nurses who apply their skills at VA North Texas are glad that the cotton farmer’s daughter left home to make the journey of a lifetime.
“Nursing has always been where I could pour my heart and soul,” said Warren. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
This story was originally posted on VAntage Point.
Our Nurse of the Week is Kelsey Mumford, a senior nursing student at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin who wants to help Texas become a healthier state. Growing up in the Austin area, Mumford experienced the impact that a top-tier research university can have on a community. After seeing the work UT was doing, it became the only school she applied to, and now she’s helping advocate for better health policies as a nursing student.
Mumford started at UT Austin as a freshman with a double major in nursing honors and biology. Outside the classroom, she was involved as a Forty Acres Scholar, the School of Nursing representative in Student Government, a Texas Coed cheerleader, and the Health Policy Committee chair of the UT Nursing Students Association.
During her sophomore year, the dean of the nursing school sent Mumford to a student policy summit in Washington, DC, which was designed to immerse student nurses in the federal policy process. At the summit, she had the opportunity to apply for a small grant to take what she learned back to UT. Mumford won and designed a three-month campaign to get other students excited about advocating for better health in the Austin community.
As part of the campaign, Mumford organized 70 students who advocated to pass a bill in the Texas Legislature. It was a small policy change in the driver’s license application—instead of checking a box to opt in to being an organ donor in Texas, you would instead have the option to opt out.
Mumford tells News.UTexas.edu, “It was a very small thing, but it could have a large impact on the bigger system. It’s an example of how a health policy on a specific issue can have a chain reaction. Health policy is not just big national bills. These state and local bills are really important.”
Mumford chose nursing school because she has always wanted to help people, and now she sees a future for how to do that on a larger scale. During her junior year, she was awarded the Nurse in Washington Internship and was subsequently able to meet the Texas legislative staffers to discuss issues such as the opioid crisis. The goal of one bill discussed was to provide advanced practice registered nurses with greater ability to prescribe naloxone and other opioid addiction treatments.
Mumford says, “I’m really interested in preventative policies. How can we prevent people from getting sick in the first place? I want to know in the future that I’ve helped Texas become a healthier state.”
Now in her senior year, Mumford serves on the Board of Directors of the National Student Nurses Association, is the founder of the Health Advocacy Student Coalition, and is the program coordinator for the Dell Medical School Health Leadership Apprentice Program. After graduating in May, Mumford plans to attend graduate school and continue health advocacy in her career.
To learn more about Kelsey Mumford, a senior nursing student at UT Austin who wants to help Texas become a healthier state, visit here.
The Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Affairs Hospital in San Antonio, Texas has achieved designation as a Pathway to Excellence® organization by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). It is the first VA in Texas to be designated as a Pathway to Excellence® organization and the fifth VA in the nation.
The Pathway to Excellence international designation is awarded based on characteristics known as “The Pathway to Excellence Criteria.” For an organization to earn this distinction, it must successfully undergo a thorough review documenting foundational quality initiatives in creating a positive work environment — as defined by nurses and supported by research. These initiatives must be present in the facility’s practices, policies, and culture. Nurses in the organization verify the presence of the criteria through participation in a confidential online survey. Receiving this designation validates the professional satisfaction of nurses at ALMMVH and identifies the facility as one of the best places to work. ALMMVH exceeded scores in 27 out of 28 categories in the Pathway to Excellence Nurse Survey.
“This designation represents the dedication and commitment to nursing excellence,” said Valerie Rodriguez- Yu, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, associate director for Patient Care Services. “Audie L. Murphy staff wanted this prestigious recognition and worked arduously to achieve success as a team. I am extremely proud of each and every one and I congratulate them on achieving The Pathway to Excellence for the first time. We could not have achieved this award without the overall dedication and commitment to excellence for our Veterans, their families and the community.”
“VA is driven by its commitment to nursing excellence and to a positive work environment which translates to good patient outcomes for Veterans,” said Christopher Sandles, director, South Texas Veterans Health Care System. “This success story confirms to our Nation’s heroes that San Antonio VA nurses know their efforts are supported by executive leadership locally and nationwide.”
This story was originally posted on VAntage Point.
VA Nurse Executive Valerie Rodriguez-Yu serves on the executive leadership team at the 567-bed South Texas Veterans Health Care System.
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 #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.)
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.
This story was originally posted on VAntage Point.
Wondering what it’s like to be a VA employee? To give you some insight, we recently interviewed Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Lisa Wratchford of the Abilene Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Texas. As a Navy Veteran, she has a unique perspective on serving patients who’ve served America, and she’ll help you decide if a career with VA is right for you.
Why should job-seekers consider joining VA?
Our organization is moving toward less restrictive policies, which will give us full practice authority and more independence. There are also outstanding benefits, including generous paid time off, flexible scheduling and other perks that help us keep a healthy work-life balance. Above all, we get to give back to Veterans by providing treatment that improves their lives.
How does VA’s integrated model of care impact your typical day?
It makes things more efficient and productive. When I need to consult with someone, all I have to do is walk down the hall. I truly appreciate that I can work closely with other disciplines to meet the various needs of my patients.
What are some challenges that come with your position?
Taking the mystery and stigma out of mental health conditions. There’s a growing opportunity to educate others on the topic, so that’s something I’m always doing. My hope is to increase understanding of and empathy for people dealing with these issues. It’s a crucial part of being a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner at VA.
If you’re interested in healing Veterans with our extraordinary team, explore our current opportunities and pursue one today.
This story was originally posted on VAntage Point.
At their third biennial Constellation Gala in November, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) raised an all-time high of $10.1 million. The donations raised at the gala will go toward supporting student scholarships, faculty endowments, research, and clinical care.
Diana Hawkins, chair of the UTHealth Development Board, tells tmc.edu, “Our gala theme, the constellation, represents the character of this great institution. Just as a constellation and the night skies are made of many bright and shining stars, so do the unique people who are UTHealth shine together as one of the nation’s premier universities. Tonight, we honor you—our UT family, friends and supporters. You’re our stars in our constellation that help the university’s top doctors, scientists and scholars revolutionize health care.”
The gala honored Jane and Robert Cizik who donated $25 million to the UTHealth School of Nursing in November 2017. The unprecedented gift has gone toward the university’s endeavor to address the shortage of nurses in healthcare by training the next generation of skilled and compassionate nurses. The Cizik’s are known in Houston for their service to the community and UTHealth was honored to recognize them at the Constellation Gala.
The event also recognized actor William Devane for his voice-over work with the award-winning “Many Faces of UTHealth” branding campaign, which highlights the university’s educators, researchers and clinicians. The campaign educated the Houston community on the scope of UTHealth and the work of its exceptional faculty members across the healthcare spectrum, including the nursing program.
To learn more about UTHealth’s biennial Constellation Gala which raised over $10 million in November to support the university’s healthcare students and faculty, visit here.