One of the ways VA has contributed to relief efforts during the coronavirus pandemic is by hiring more nurses to support patient health care.
VA’s Office of Nursing Services (ONS) and Workforce Management and Consulting Office (WMC) collaborated to hire more nurses. This collaboration can serve as a model for many other health care professions who need to hire essential staff quickly.
“We knew that nurses would be the largest professional group we would need during this pandemic,” said Dr. Beth Taylor, VA’s chief nursing officer. “But we knew that most likely, we would not have enough nurses.”
In March, VA’s ONS and WMC worked together to conduct more than 2,300 screenings and interviews for nursing staff. As a result, they hired 67 registered nurses, 15 nurse practitioners, three nursing assistants, two student nurse technicians and one certified registered nurse anesthetist.
Nurses are critical to VA health care.
Assigned to Travel Nurse Corps
They were assigned to high-need areas as part of the Travel Nurse Corps. The corps is an internal pool of registered nurses who are available for temporary short-term assignments at VA medical centers across the country.
Once candidates reached the interviewing and hiring stages, ONS and WMC coordinated with professional nurses across the entire VA system who helped with interviewing, credentialing and deploying the nurses. This process, Taylor said, “Couldn’t happen quickly enough.”
The team was doing something they had never done before, all in a “virtual space,” due to social distancing restrictions during COVID-19. Nationally, VA medical center staff are continuing to review the applications and offer positions to address local need.
Nurses are critical during a public health emergency, such as COVID-19, because they “account for more than half of all the world’s health workers and are at the forefront of fighting epidemics and pandemics that threaten health across the globe,” according to the World Health Organization.
2020 is the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. It also is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.
Everybody said, “How Can I Help?”
Dr. Tracy Weistreich is a nurse executive for VHA’s Office of Community Engagement (OCE). She was one of the nursing professionals who helped screen nursing candidates who had applied to staff positions.
“People in the nursing world were really excited and enthusiastic,” Taylor said. Furthermore, “Everybody said, ‘How can I help?’ Everyone was willing to step up and say ‘Of course.’ That’s something I think I will always take with me.”
“That’s the epitome of what we do in nursing,” said Weistreich. “We remain flexible, we remain agile, we remain committed to taking care of the patient and getting done what needs to be done.”
To learn more about ONS, visit https://www.va.gov/nursing/.
To learn more about OCE’s partnership work throughout VHA, visit https://www.va.gov/healthpartnerships/.
Nurses who are interested in applying to work at VA should visit USAJOBS.gov.
Courtesy the VHA Office of Community Engagement.