VA Nurse Executive Drawn to the Mission of Caring for Veterans and to Being Part of an Elite Team

VA Nurse Executive Drawn to the Mission of Caring for Veterans and to Being Part of an Elite Team

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.

Caring for Veterans Helps VA Nurse Find Healing

Caring for Veterans Helps VA Nurse Find Healing

Katelyn McKibben, R.N., has always been passionate about taking care of others. At age 16, she became an emergency medical technician (EMT), where she developed her skills and discovered a lifelong passion that led her to nursing school. During that time, she fell in love with Eric Kline, a 1st Lieutenant in the Army National Guard. Eric was deployed to Afghanistan shortly thereafter, but when he returned in 2010, his disposition had changed considerably. A few weeks later, he took his own life.

Katelyn continued her nursing education and found much needed comfort in the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)—an organization that provides care and grief support programs for military survivors. Katelyn became a peer counselor at TAPS to help others in similar situations find healing and hope. Today, Katelyn is a nurse at the Erie Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Pennsylvania. “Caring for Veterans has given me a purpose. This career allows me to honor 1st lieutenant Eric Kline every single day. What my patients don’t know is that while I am helping them heal, they have done so much more to help me heal,” she says.

Ready for a rewarding career with purpose? Join VA and you, too, will experience the unique satisfaction and joy that comes with serving our nation’s heroes. To get started, search for opportunities near you and apply today.

This story was originally posted on VAntage Point. 

Five Helpful Tips to Get You Started in a Nursing Career with VA

Five Helpful Tips to Get You Started in a Nursing Career with VA

Nurses at VA are the cornerstone of our organization. They go above and beyond to support our Veterans physically and emotionally during their care with us. If you are a registered nurse hoping to start your VHA career, here are five tips to help you succeed.

Demonstrate leadership: Nurses are expected to take initiative in providing and directing comprehensive health strategies for our patients through collaboration with interdisciplinary teams. This can range from providing guidance to the patient and their family to executing care plans.

Advocate for patients: It’s important that patients feel cared for and taken care of. Form patient relationships that foster trust and compassion. Identify helpful resources, follow up on questions and direct concerns when needed.

Exhibit critical-thinking skills: Creating patient management plans takes careful and objective thought. The nursing field requires sound judgment and medical knowledge in the delivery of quality clinical care.

Practice patience: Nursing is stressful, and it is easy to feel rushed. However, whether it’s making the rounds with patients or delivering medications, taking your time ensures safety and makes the patient feel like their time is valued.

Experience: Experience can be acquired at many levels, including professional, collegiate and volunteering. Applying learned lessons to real-life situations is one of the best ways to understand nursing and flourish.

This story was originally posted on VAntage Point.

Q&A with VA Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Lisa Wratchford

Q&A with VA Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Lisa Wratchford

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.

Innovate: A Collaboration of Nursing Excellence at the Minneapolis VA Health Care Center

Innovate: A Collaboration of Nursing Excellence at the Minneapolis VA Health Care Center

Every day in VA hospitals nationwide, nurses dedicate themselves to help patients reclaim their lives. What they do is more than a career, it’s a calling to restore hope and bring healing to Veterans and their families. Nurses’ strength, skill and compassion lie at the core of VA’s high-quality standard of care. 

In January 2017, the Minneapolis VA Health Care Center opened a hybrid operating room suite with both single plane and biplane radiologic equipment. Our main operating room is a busy 18 room operating room suite that supports complex patient care needs of 13 surgical subspecialties. We are a complex 1A facility. The decision to create a separate hybrid operating room came from a team of professional nurses that specialize in hybrid operating room technology and procedures was adopted and has proven to be highly successful.

Hybrid operating rooms combine minimally invasive approaches to complex patient care needs with the ability to convert to traditional open type surgical interventions. Hybrid operating rooms also support the complex blending of cardiology and cardiac surgery interventions, more specifically the TAVR (trans catheter aortic valve) procedure. The hybrid operating room also blend the expertise of invasive radiologists and vascular surgeons to provide both diagnostic and interventional treatment for complex vascular disease. The hybrid operating room certainly is the future for all hospitals as it allows enormous flexibility in meeting the patient’s procedural needs. The hybrid operating room environment requires a special type of nurse that possesses extreme flexibility, complex thinking skills, keen technical and patient assessment skills. We have achieved this success in Minneapolis in creating a new breed of nursing that possess these qualities.

In development of the hybrid operating room philosophy, we have successfully collaborated with our team members in the cardiac cath lab, cardiology, and invasive radiology suites. We have collaborated in the development of our nursing skills sets, we have combined and share inventory, collaborated in competency validation and nursing education. We work together breaking down the walls of departmental structure to provide multi-disciplinary care for our Veterans!

Story submitted by: Julie A. Wagner, RN, CNOR

This story was originally posted on VAntage Point.

Q&A with Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Dr. Mary Lilly

Q&A with Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Dr. Mary Lilly

Recently, we connected with Dr. Mary Lilly to talk about the benefits of being a Primary Care Mental Health Integration (PCMHI) Nurse Practitioner at VA. Her insights will give you a better idea of what it’s like to be on VA’s collaborative, multidisciplinary team, and help you decide if a career with VA is right for you.

Can you tell us about PCMHI at VA?

Through this model, primary care providers work directly with the mental health team to address patient needs that require specialty expertise. This can be anything from psychiatric evaluations and diagnoses to medication management and more. By doing so, we streamline the service delivery process and ensure more efficient and effective treatment.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My workdays focus on the mental health questions and concerns of Veterans, who are referred to me by their primary care physicians and other NPs. I also consult with these professionals on medications they may wish to prescribe, and I provide follow-up services to patients as needed.

As a VA NP, you have full and independent practice authority. How does this impact your career?

Autonomy helps me grow every day, which is essential to my overall job satisfaction. Fulfillment like this is part of what drives employee retention and service quality throughout our organization.

Why choose VA over another employer?

One of the many reasons is the benefits—they’re outstanding. They give me the scheduling flexibility, PTO and financial support I need to make the most of my personal life, which includes spending time with my family. And if we ever need or want to move to a different state, I have the freedom to do so, since our health system has locations throughout the country. This is my fourth year with VA, I spent the first two years at El Paso, one year at Loma Linda and recently came back to the El Paso facility. Transferring is straightforward because only one state clinical license is required to work at any VA facility nationwide. You won’t find that kind of mobility anywhere else.

What’s the best part of working at VA?

Serving those who’ve served America. Veterans are the most interesting and rewarding patients to care for. Their service and stories are truly inspirational, and I am forever grateful for both them and the opportunity to impact their lives.

What are you most excited for in 2018?

We have a new Primary Care Chief, Dr. Barrett Hayes, who will work to help providers reach their full potential. I’m confident that his team’s leadership will be transformational and drive the advancement of Veteran care at my facility and beyond.

This story was originally posted on VAntage Point.


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