Helping my Veteran: An Introduction

In the beginning, 2005-2008, the inspiration for this came from the observation of daily struggles with my patients combat the VA system. Hearing and watching them state “The VA doesn’t care about you, it’s just the “Insert service branch” opportunity to kill you a second time.”   With the basic knowledge I had as an employee of the VA, I couldn’t understand the difficulty in navigating the VA system. It seemed like a simple thing to do. With all my patients, I decided to start asking questions regarding their needs. “Do you see a mental health professional? Do you see your primary care physician routinely? What challenges are you having with your care and treatment here.” With respect to all branches and theater of combats, I noticed that most of my older veterans were secure in the VA, however my younger veterans were not. The OEF/OIF Veterans seemed confused and lost by the VA system. Even how to enroll was “too much work” for them. In 2008 I met my now husband, who is a Veteran, and after about a week of dating and listening to him complain about his difficulties I asked him to walk me through the process with him. I was shocked to see how difficult it was for a Veteran to complete simple tasks; schedule an appointment, request medication refill, and even knowing who to speak to regarding navigating the system. It became apparent that a change was needed.

My nursing career started as a Certified Nursing Assistant in 1997 in the private sector at a Bay Care Hospital. Caring for patients was not only a gratifying position, my love for medicine really started to emerge. I did make an attempt to join the Navy the same year, only to find out that I had a congenital heart condition that would omit me from serving. Once completing my prerequisites for nursing school, I came across that VA. In 2000, I started applying, however being a civilian, and not connected to that VA in anyway, it was challenging to get in the door. I did catch a break in 2002, when my nursing instructor, who was a Veteran, had connections within the VA system and said she saw something in me that VA needed. My orientation was about six months later, 2002 Welcome to Bay Pines VA Medical Center! My RN career started in 2004, staying in the same facility, as a staff nurse with my focus in cardiology and emergency medicine. During my time as a staff RN, we were able to put multiple polices and processes in place to aid and assist new veterans to our facility.

I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in 2010 from South University and started the towards the career path that I am currently on. It became evident to me that staying at the bedside, gratifying as it may be, I was unable to make an impact to the veteran experience. Walking away from the Acute Care setting of Veterans care, I started in Nursing Operations.  My current role is less patient active and more behind the scenes ensuring patients make it to the correct locations when they are admitted the first time. Again, noting that my current degree limited the impact I was able to have, I headed back to school for my Master Degree. This June I will complete my Masters in Nursing Management and Leadership. 

Throughout all of this I met my husband in 2008 and lost my mother a short six months later. She was a strength in my life I was not prepared to lose and still struggle daily with how to live life without her.  My husband and I married in 2010, had our first child in 2012 a second one to follow in 2016. Things that bring me great joy in life are making other happy, random acts of kindness letting people know that there are other that care in this world. Baseball is another highlight to my life, this year my oldest son began to play little league and coaching him is a blessing in and of itself. Hoverer as a die-hard Yankee fan, coaching the Red Sox, even as a little league team is teaching me daily on how to maintain my professionalism. A few rules I live by:

  1. You are where you are when you are supposed to be there—fighting this will not fix the situation you are in, it will only prolong it. Learn your lesson and move on.
  2. You can only control what is in your circle. If it is outside your circle of control, we need to control how we respond to it.
  3. Do your very best every day regardless of what people think. If you can lay your head down on your pillow at night and go to sleep… you have had a successful day.

At the end of the day, the goal to help the civilian world acclimate to veteran community. The transition from Soldier to Veteran is challenging and getting society to understand that a veteran will never be a civilian again is on the civilian society to learn. The veteran knows who they are. The goal with this blog is to bring insight to civilians and help understand the veteran population and aid with the process integration for both populations. In addition to this, having a civilian work within the confines of the VA system can prove challenging. The DOD, DVA and Civilians all speak DIFFERENT LANGUAGES! An there are no individuals that speak all three, if there are, they are far and few between.  Giving insights to those dealing with veterans daily is a step in the correct direction to helping my veteran.