Nurse (Couple) of the Week: Texas BSNs Combine Proposal with Pinning at Grad Ceremony

Nurse (Couple) of the Week: Texas BSNs Combine Proposal with Pinning at Grad Ceremony

A BSN pinning ceremony during a global pandemic is a dramatic event in itself. Amid the celebratory atmosphere, there is almost a mood of military enlistment among nursing grads. Newly minted BSNs are getting ready to work on the “frontlines,” and as we have seen over the past two years, many standout nurses have served in the armed forces. So, is it really that surprising that some nurses – like our Nurse (Couple) of the Week – are pairing off on route to the Covid Front?

Romantics like VBSN (Veteran to Bachelor of Science in Nursing) Darvin Del Rio like to make an impression when asking someone to become their life partner, and if you make one major rite of passage a gateway to another, it will definitely be an event to remember.

The San Antonio firefighter and flight paramedic felt that the woman of his dreams deserved nothing less than a “fairy tale proposal,” so – with the Dean’s blessing – he popped the question to his girlfriend/classmate/fellow vet Leianne Maugeri at their Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing BSN pinning ceremony.

Did she say “yes?”

According to the combat medic and brand-new nurse, “Of course, I said yes! I admire this man so much and am honored to spend the rest of my life with him.”

Apparently, Mr. Del Rio’s stratagem hit the target straight on, as his new fiancée added, “This was more than I ever dreamed of, and for that I will be forever grateful. Thank you, Devin, for showing me what it’s like to feel undoubtedly loved and cherished.”

Del Rio and his intended were first introduced in 2017 at Fort Bliss (yes; Fort Bliss, where else?). A year later, they were sharing a home. As the pandemic began to spread, the pair – like many veterans – saw nursing as a natural step from military to civilian service. With their paramedic and combat medicine experience, they made swift progress through the TTU accelerated VBSN program. Maugeri noted that the VBSN seemed tailor-made for them, given “our 9-plus years of experience in trauma and emergency medicine. This fast-paced environment is something we’ve become accustomed to through the military so it definitely stood above the rest.”

Maugeri’s fiancé said “completing the program in one year was a bonus,” but sounded both proud and humbled to confess, “Leianne has the better grades, hands down. She’s smarter than me by far. How she ended up with me, I don’t know. But I do thank my lucky stars for it. Sometimes it’s better not to question.”

However, it sounds like there is no question about this love match. When asked about one another, both nurses respond in terms that could easily double as self-penned wedding vows:

She: “It is crazy to think of all that we have endured together over the last four years — from serving as active-duty flight paramedics to graduating this nursing program together. It’s a wonderful thing to have gone through so much with my very best friend. I feel incredibly blessed.”

For his part, Del Rio waxes poetic: “She has a presence about her that lights the room…. Living with her these last four years is what has made me sure now more than ever.” He concluded with a vow that would win anyone’s heart: “Thank you, Leianne, for bringing out the best in me. Know that no matter what happens between us, I’ll always love you for the stability you’ve brought to this rocky world of mine. So long as I live, I’ll continue to give you the world.”

We wish the love-struck BSNs the very best. May they enjoy a long, happy marriage, and make a difference in patients’ lives for many years to come.

For more on the newly affianced grads, see the story at Lubbock Online.

Learn more about a nursing program structured for your success

Learn more about a nursing program structured for your success

Have you recently graduated from nursing school? Want to learn more about a nursing program that is structured for your success? VA’s Registered Nurse Transition-To-Practice (RNTTP) Residency Program can help.

Bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world to kickstart your nursing career with confidence. Read these frequently asked questions to learn more about the program.

What is the RNTTP Residency Program?

VA’s RNTTP Residency Program gives new nurses the tools and guidance they need to grow and learn within the health care industry. Experienced nurses guide program participants through the roles, duties, patient care activities and procedures registered nurses (RNs) perform. Veteran-centric information is covered throughout the program as well.

Who is eligible for the program?

If you have recently graduated from your nursing program or are a new graduate RN with less than a year of professional experience, you may qualify for the program.

How long is the program?

The RNTTP Residency Program is a 12-month developmental training program. It includes both didactic and clinical components, and the area of assignment will vary depending on the needs of the facility and your individual learning needs.

How can the program help my career?

Being a new nurse can be challenging. The team-focused support component of the RNTTP Residency Program cannot be overemphasized – it aids in your overall success as a nurse. Your assigned preceptor(s) will work closely with you during unit-based clinical orientation and throughout the program. Research shows that residency programs set new nurses up for success and positively impact health systems.

Participants of the program benefit from:

  • Hands-on clinical experience
  • Classroom and simulation training
  • Preceptorship
  • Mentorship
  • Shadowing experiences

Want to learn more? Hear from a successful recent RNTTP Residency Program graduateabout her experience.

Where would I work?

VA Medical Centers are located nationwide, so your perfect job opportunity is waiting for you wherever you are. Each VA Medical Center must establish and maintain an RNTTP Residency Program if they hire post-graduate RNs with less than one year of professional nursing experience.

Why should I become a VA nurse?

VA is the nation’s leading employer of nurses, with a team of more than 100,000 and growing – for good reasons. VA nurses enjoy these and other benefits:

  • Competitive pay
  • Insurance coverage
  • Education support
  • Generous retirement
  • Plentiful time off
  • Professional freedom

As the nation’s largest health care system, VA offers state-of-the-art tools, including speech-recognition capabilities, virtual technologies, mobile devices and renowned knowledge-based resources. VA is also the leader in telehealth, clinical innovation, and surgical quality.

Nurses of all employment levels can take advantage of more than 7,000 training programs in affiliation with over 1,800 educational institutions, from mandatory developmental programs to competitive opportunities. There are endless possibilities for improving your skills and advancing your career within the agency.

I’m interested. How can I learn more?

We encourage interested applicants to subscribe to our email list, as additional program details will be coming in early 2022. In the meantime, you can also find more information about the program on the VA nursing page, and check out the existing RNTTP listings on the USAJOBS site.

Nurse of the Week: After Battling PTSD and Addiction, She’s Helping “Brother and Sister” Vets

Nurse of the Week: After Battling PTSD and Addiction, She’s Helping “Brother and Sister” Vets

Jennifer Grubb, our Nurse of the Week, is a military veteran who is now deploying her hard-earned experience to help others as a nurse.

The PA native started her career in 2003 at the age of 20, when she served in Afghanistan at the height of the post-9/11 military action. Grubb was a combat lifesaver and worked security details in a place where saving lives was often impossible, and no one could afford to feel secure. She saw comrades die in attacks, witnessed the wretched collateral damage suffered by civilian adults and children, and picked her way through minefields.

Like so many soldiers, she struggled as her psyche attempted to process things that most people are not meant to process. In an interview with her hometown Pennsylvania newspaper, The Daily Local, she recalled, “I saw so many gruesome sights. I just hated where I was and decided my best route was just to feel nothing… I started writing less, I started calling less, I started eating less.” Finally, after Grubb had lost 80 pounds during her quest to seal off the horror of war, the Army medevacked her back to the US with an honorable discharge. Then, again like so many other soldiers, she found that even 7000 miles somehow failed to provide a safe distance from the war. As she describes it, “you don’t fit in in your own life anymore. I was always looking over my shoulder. The slightest thing made me jump.”

The nightmares were so intense that they seemed to taint her waking hours, so she tried her best to avoid sleeping and numbed the trauma with drugs. Eventually, she slid to one of those make-or-break low points: “I was just going to use drugs until it killed me. I had one moment where I had a glimmer of hope, and I prayed to God to save me. Two hours later, I was pulled over and arrested for possession of crack cocaine.”

Things began to arc upward when the court allowed her to enter a drug program, and Grubb’s new therapist diagnosed her with PTSD. “I wasn’t Jenn anymore; I was PTSD, with all of my symptoms, and allowing it to really consume my entire life.” With the help of her therapist, though, and treatment at her local VA medical center, she says, “I started to smile more. And the nightmares became a little less. And not every social situation I was in made me jump out of my skin. And I just tried to stay sober, just one day at a time.”

In 2015, Grubb’s life asserted itself as being on an upward swing when she was invited to a women’s vet breakfast with then-first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden. During the gathering, Obama noted, “So much of your rise had to do with that reaching out and realizing that there are so many folks out there that are ready to just take your hand.” Grubb realized she was in an ideal position to help other vets sidestep the pitfalls of the self-reliant military ethos and the notion that “we can do anything by ourselves, and I don’t need your help.” She adds, “And there’s such a stigma attached to reaching out.”

As the urge to serve and help others is part of her nature, the recovering vet soon sought ways to do that. While PTSD is chronic – Grubb will always do her best to avoid crowds and can only tolerate sitting in an auto passenger seat if her trusted husband is driving – the treatment allowed her to acclimate. “PTSD is not hopeless,” she says. “There are ways to make it a part of you rather than have it define you.” Once she felt that her demons were tightly reined in, Grubb became an LPN, then a director of patient services at an SUD treatment facility. When the latter’s lack of resources had her teetering on the edge of burnout, she then found a position at the VA center where she first received help herself, the Coatesville VA Medical Center.

Now, the LPN, Almost-BSN is caring for fellow vets and helping them navigate their own trauma ordeals. The military connection is powerful. “These guys and these gals, they’re my brothers; they’re my sisters. There’s a closeness and a bond even with strangers that I can’t really explain to the rest of the population. There’s a level of trust that comes with it.” Deciding that she had a calling to pursue, Grubb earned a BA in Psychology, then entered Immaculata College’s accelerated BSN program, where she will graduate in 2022.

Becoming a nurse came naturally to Grubb. She was moved by the nurses who cared for her when her daughter was born, and realized, “When I left the service, I missed being in service to people.” Today, she’s finishing her BSN program and working as a communications specialist at the Coatesville VA, where “I’m good at my job because of the personal connection I have to it. With the veteran population, they want other veterans to be their caregivers. They want people who really get it.”

For more details about Jennifer Grubb, see the excellent Daily Local article here.

Ready to Kickstart Your Nursing Career? VA Has Your Back

Ready to Kickstart Your Nursing Career? VA Has Your Back

Looking to build your career as a new Registered Nurse (RN), but not sure where to start? Discover a training program that will help bridge the gap between the classroom and real-world experience.

New nurses and recent nursing program graduates: VA’s RN Transition-To-Practice (RNTTP) Residency Program is structured for your success. This program gives new nurses the specific tools and guidance they need to grow and develop within the health care industry.

Transition from the classroom to practice

It’s no secret that nursing is a challenging career path. Although it is certainly a rewarding and honorable one as well, nursing can be mentally and physically demanding. The team-focused, support component of the RNTTP Residency Program cannot be overemphasized – it aids in your overall success as a nurse.

Throughout the 12-month developmental training program, experienced nurses will guide you through the role, duties, patient care activities and procedures RNs perform. Your assigned preceptor/preceptors will work closely with you during unit-based clinical orientation and throughout the program.

RNTTP Program Manager, Kim DeMasi, believes the program is built for success.

“Transitioning from student nurse to practicing RN can seem daunting; change is a challenge and an opportunity. The VHA RNTTP Residency Program is designed to provide the support you need to confidently and competently face this new challenge,” said DeMasi.

Learn more about the RNTTP Residency Program

If you have recently graduated from your nursing program or are a new graduate RN with less than a year of professional experience, you are eligible to enroll in the program.

Apply today, so you can benefit from:

  • Hands-on clinical experiences
  • Classroom and simulation training
  • Preceptorship
  • Mentorship
  • Shadowing experiences
  • And more

In addition, VA medical centers are located nationwide – so your perfect job opportunity is waiting for you wherever you are. Above all, through developing your career at VA, you will be directly impacting the lives of our nation’s Veterans.

Discover exceptional career benefits

VA is the nation’s leading employer of nurses, with a team of more than 100,000 and growing. Nurses of all employment levels can take advantage of over 7,000 training programs in affiliation with over 1,800 educational institutions, from mandatory developmental programs to competitive opportunities. There are endless possibilities for growing your skills and advancing your career within the agency.

VA nurses enjoy these and other benefits:

  • Competitive pay
  • Insurance coverage
  • Education support
  • Generous retirement
  • Plentiful time off
  • Professional freedom

As the nation’s largest health care system, VA offers state-of-the-art tools, including speech-recognition capabilities, virtual technologies, mobile devices and renowned knowledge-based resources. VA is also the leader in telehealth, clinical innovation, and surgical quality.

Work at VA

NOTE: Positions listed in this post were open at the time of publication. All current available positions are listed at USAJobs.gov.

100 Years of VA Nursing History in 2 Minutes (or less!)

100 Years of VA Nursing History in 2 Minutes (or less!)

Nurses are the backbone of VA’s health system and make a profound impact on the lives of Veterans every day, just as they have for the last 100 years. As you consider a career in nursing with VA, take a look at how VA nurses have established a legacy of service and advancement throughout the decades…

 

A VA Nursing Timeline


1921 – In 1921, about 1,400 hospital nurses were transferred from the nation’s Public Health Service to the new Veterans’ Bureau (the predecessor to VA), paving the way for nursing at VA as we know it today. The move was necessitated by a need for long-term care as the bureau focused on its Veteran patients.


1930 – The modern nursing service took its present shape in 1930, when three federal agencies responsible for Veterans’ programs consolidated into the new Veterans Administration, and around 2,500 registered nurses went to work for VA.


1940s – During World War II, approximately 1,000 student cadet nurses were assigned to VA hospitals, spending 6 months or more of their academic programs gaining clinical nursing experience. Meanwhile, about 1,000 registered nurses were among the more than 7,000 VA employees who left to join the armed forces during the early years of the war.


1950s – As the 1950s arrived, VA’s first chief of nursing education was appointed, leading to the decade’s focus on continuing education ongoing to this day. Affiliations with schools of nursing expanded, resulting in a steady growth in the number of nursing students receiving VA clinical experience.


1963 – In 1963, the VA nursing service was first in the profession to establish a position for doctoral-prepared nurse researchers, formalizing the research function within the service. 

1973 – By 1973, nurses were performing a wider variety of health care functions than ever before throughout VA. They were delegated authority to function as primary providers of Veteran care while working closely with physicians and other members of interdisciplinary teams. That same year, 43 nurse practitioner positions were added to improve patient care in admissions areas – the first major use of nurse practitioners in VA.

1980s – Recruiting and retention became a key focus of the nursing service in the 1980s, a response to the regional and national nurse shortages that characterized the decade. We instituted a wide range of scholarship and tuition assistance programs to attract new nurses and boost employee career commitment.


1990s – At the start of the 1990s, some 2,300 VA nurses were in the ready reserve of the U.S. Armed Forces at the time of the Persian Gulf crisis. More than 600 were called to active duty, and another 300 were put on alert status.


2000s – In 2005 and 2006, VA nursing staff responded to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, assisting with evacuation and continuing care of hundreds of VA hospital patients. The service partnered with other federal agencies to establish and provide care at shelters in Texas.


2021 – In the modern era, over 112,000 nurses support the mission of the VA health care system by providing state-of-the-art, cost-effective nursing care to patients and families as they respond to health and illness.


Work at VA

As you plan to join our team, you now know that you’ll be part of a century-long tradition of professionalism and advancement that no other organization can beat.

NOTE: Positions listed in this post were open at the time of publication. All current available positions are listed at USAJobs.gov.

Veterans Push for Medical Marijuana in Conservative South

Veterans Push for Medical Marijuana in Conservative South

RALEIGH, N.C. — Each time Chayse Roth drives home to North Carolina, he notices the highway welcome signs that declare: “Nation’s Most Military Friendly State.”

“That’s a powerful thing to claim,” said Roth, a former Marine Corps gunnery sergeant who served multiple deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Now he says he’s calling on the state to live up to those words. A Wilmington resident, Roth is advocating for lawmakers to pass a bill that would legalize medical marijuana and allow veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other debilitating conditions to use it for treatment.

Originally published in Kaiser Health News.

“I’ve lost more men to suicide since we went to Afghanistan in ’01 than I have in combat,” said Roth, who said he doesn’t use cannabis himself but wants others to have the option. “It’s just unacceptable for these guys to go overseas and win the battle and come home and lose the battle to themselves.”

He is among several veterans brought together by a recently formed advocacy group called NC Families for Medical Cannabis. These veterans have testified before the legislature and visited lawmakers individually.

In a state that’s home to eight military basesone of the largest veteran populations in the country and a Republican-controlled legislature that prides itself on supporting the troops, they hope their voices will act as a crucial lever to push through a bill that has faced opposition in the past.

“If we really want to be the most veteran-friendly state in the union, this is just another thing we can do to solidify that statement,” Roth said.

From California to Massachusetts, veterans have been active in the push for medical marijuana legalization for decades. But now, as the movement focuses on the remaining 14 states that have not enacted comprehensive medical marijuana programs or full marijuana legalization, their voices may have outsize influence, experts say.

Many of these remaining states are in the traditionally conservative South and dominated by Republican legislatures. “The group carrying the message here makes a huge difference,” said Julius Hobson Jr., a former lobbyist for the American Medical Association who now teaches lobbying at George Washington University. “When you’ve got veterans coming in advocating for that, and they’re considered to be a more conservative bunch of folks, that has more impact.”

Veterans also have the power of numbers in many of these states, Hobson said. “That’s what gives them clout.”

Successes are already evident. In Texas and Louisiana, veterans played a key role in the recent expansion of medical marijuana programs. In Mississippi, they supported a successful ballot initiative for medical cannabis in 2020, though the result was later overturned by the state Supreme Court. And in Alabama, the case of an out-of-state veteran arrested and jailed for possession of medical marijuana incited national outrage and calls for legalization. The state legalized medical marijuana earlier this year.

To be sure, not every veteran supports these efforts, and the developments in red states have been influenced by other factors: advocacy from cancer patients and parents whose children have epilepsy, lawmakers who see this as a states’ rights issue, a search for alternative pain relief amid the opioid epidemic and a push from industries seeking economic gains.

But the attention to the addiction and suicide epidemics among veterans, and calls to give them more treatment options, are also powerful forces.

In states like North Carolina, where statewide ballot initiatives are banned, veterans can kick-start a conversation with lawmakers who hold the power to make change, said Garrett Perdue, the son of former North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue and a spokesperson for NC Families for Medical Cannabis and CEO of Root Bioscience, a company that makes hemp products.

“It fits right in with the general assembly’s historical support of those communities,” Perdue said. “For [lawmakers] to hear stories of those people that are trusted to protect us and enforce the right of law” and see them as advocates for this policy “is pretty compelling.”Gary Hess (left) and Chayse Roth have testified at North Carolina Legislature hearings advocating for a bill to legalize medical marijuana ― primarily as a treatment for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.(ROB RENS)

Gary Hess, a Marine Corps veteran from Louisiana, said he first realized the power of his platform in 2019, when he testifiedin front of the state legislature about seeing friends decapitated by explosions, reliving the trauma day-to-day, taking a cocktail of prescription medications that did little to help his symptoms and finally finding relief with cannabis. His story resonated with lawmakers who had served in the military themselves, Hess said.

He recalled one former colonel serving in the Louisiana House telling him: “They’re not going to say no to a veteran because of the crisis you’re all in. As someone who is put together well and can tell the story of marijuana’s efficacy, you have a powerful platform.”

Hess has since started his own nonprofit to advocate for medical marijuana legalization and has traveled to other state and national events, including hearings before the North Carolina legislature.

“Once I saw the power my story had,” he said, “the goal became: How do I expedite this process for others?”

Experts trace the push for medical marijuana legalization back to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and ’90s, particularly in California’s Bay Area.

As the movement tried to expand, medical marijuana activists realized other regions were not as sympathetic to the LGBTQ community, said Lee Hannah, an associate professor of political science at Wright State University who is writing a book about the rise of legal marijuana in the U.S. They had to find “more target populations that evoke sympathy, understanding and support,” Hannah said.

Over time, the medical marijuana conversation grew from providing symptom relief for patients with AIDS to include such conditions as cancer, pediatric epilepsy and PTSD, Hannah and his colleagues noted in a 2020 research paper. With each condition added, the movement gained wider appeal.

“It helped change the view of who a marijuana user is,” said Daniel Mallinson, a co-author on the 2020 paper and the upcoming book with Hannah, and an assistant professor at the Penn State-Harrisburg School of Public Affairs. “That makes it more palatable in these legislatures where it wouldn’t have been before.”

In 2009, New Mexico became the first state to make PTSD patients eligible for medical marijuana. The condition has since been included in most state medical marijuana programs.

The movement got another boost in 2016 when the American Legion, a veterans organization with 1.8 million members known for its conservative politics, urged Congress to remove marijuana from its list of prohibited drugs and allow research into its medical uses.

“I think knowing an organization like the American Legion supports it frankly gives [lawmakers] a little bit of political cover to do something that they may have all along supported but had concerns about voter reaction,” said Lawrence Montreuil, the group’s legislative director.

In Texas, when the Republican governor recently approved a law expanding the state’s limited medical marijuana program, he tweeted: “Veterans could qualify for medical marijuana under new law. I will sign it.”

It’s smart political messaging, Hannah said. Elected officials “are always looking to paint laws they support in the most positive light, and the approval rate of veterans is universally high.”

Nationally, veteran-related marijuana bills seem to be among the few cannabis-related reforms that have gained bipartisan support. Bills with Democratic and Republican co-sponsors in Congress this session deal with promoting research into medical marijuana treatment for veterans, allowing Veterans Affairs doctors to discuss cannabis with patients in states where it is legal and protecting veterans from federal penalization for using state-legalized cannabis.

Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), who has co-sponsored two bipartisan bills concerning veterans and medical marijuana this session, said the interest of veterans is “what drew me to cannabis in the first place.”

In North Carolina, veterans like Roth and Hess, along with various advocacy groups, continue to drum up support for the medical marijuana bill. They know it’s a long battle. The bill must clear several Senate committees, a full Senate vote and then repeat the process in the House. But Roth said he’s optimistic “the veteran aspect of it will be heavily considered by lawmakers.”

An early indication of that came at a Senate committee hearing earlier this summer. Standing at the podium, Roth scrolled through his phone to show lawmakers how many of his veteran contacts were now dead due to suicide. Other veterans testified about the times they had contemplated suicide and how the dozens of prescription medications they had tried before cannabis had done little to quiet those thoughts.

The hearing room was silent as each person spoke. At the end, the lawmakers stood and gave a round of applause “for those veterans who are with us today and those who are not.”

The bill later passed that committee with a nearly unanimous vote.

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