Veterans are encouraged to consider second careers in nursing. That’s especially important because there’s a growing need for nurses. Labor statistics predict the need for nurses will surge from 2.8 million to 3.6 million in the next decade.
“There isn’t a more noble profession to be a part of,” says Alan Bernstein, MS, RN, deputy chief nursing officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). “Nurses in general, not just VA nurses, are always ranked as one of the most trusted professions in the United States.”
The VA, the largest medical provider in the country, employs 105,000 nursing personnel and serves over nine million veterans. With one active, unrestricted state license, VA nurses can work at any of the country’s 1,200 VA health care facilities.
“Military members often operate under some of the most stressful conditions imaginable,” says Bernstein. “The military really does train those people to handle and cope with stress. That is a skill that very easily translates to VA’s busy health care environment.”
He says veterans have five characteristics that make them great candidates for nursing careers: they value teamwork, are innovative, are resilient, are great at problem solving, and are diverse.
“They can garner trust and they have a responsibility to work effectively as a team,” he says. “They bring all of that and their sense of camaraderie to the VA.”
The benefits of a career as a VA nurse include flexible schedules, flexible salary tables, and education debt reduction, such as scholarships, tuition reimbursement, and loan repayment programs.
The VA also offers career development, such as helping military medics interested in becoming registered nurses get licensed and get hired. Through the VA Learning Opportunities Residency (VALOR) Program, registered nursing students with less than a year of experience can apply for a VA nursing residency.
“You can give back to our brothers and sisters that have served to protect the country if you work for VA,” says Bernstein. “Or if you work in the private sector, you’re able to help your fellow human beings during a time in their life when they need the support of a nurse.”
For more info on the VA Nursing program, go to VACareers.va.gov.