Nurses relish benefits of working at Milwaukee VA - Milwaukee VA Medical Center
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Milwaukee VA Medical Center

 

Nurses relish benefits of working at Milwaukee VA

Nurse Linda Larson with patient

Milwaukee VA Medical Center nurse Linda Larson talks with Veteran Wayman Buchanan shortly after he arrived in the ICU from the Emergency Department. (Photo by Benjamin Slane)

By David Walter
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

In her nearly 22 years as a nurse, Linda Larson has seen a lot of things.

About half of that time was spent working in various health-care facilities in the Milwaukee area. The last half has been at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

And there is no other place she’d rather be.

“I couldn’t be happier being here,” said the ICU nurse, noting that fellow nurses steered her toward the VA hospital. “They said this was a fabulous place to come and that I would be a great fit. And I’m very happy that I made that choice.

“I plan to finish my career at the VA.”

Larson isn’t alone. It’s not difficult to find many other nurses at the Milwaukee hospital who feel the same way.

“There is no other better place to work,” said PCU and COVID ward nurse Rachel Scherf. “I love my team and the amazing staff I work with. I don’t want to go anywhere else. I choose not to go anywhere else.”

“The Veterans are a great group to work with, and the environment is amazing,” said ICU nurse Erica Benitez. “People have a large amount of pride caring for the Veterans. They enjoy their work, and they work well with one another.Erica Benitez

“And the patients are very grateful and appreciative of everything we do for them.”

So what makes the Milwaukee VA a great place for nurses?

Many cite the federal government benefits, the flexible scheduling and the team approach to health care.

The facility is also a teaching hospital, with residents and student nurses rotating in and out, while continuing education is an ongoing part of the job.

There’s also plenty of stability; The hospital turnover rate for nurses is about 7 percent compared to 16 to 17 percent for other health-care facilities, according to Annette Severson, associate director for patient services.

But for many, what makes the Milwaukee VA special is its mission to serve those who have “borne the battle.”

“The greatest thing about the VA is its mission,” Severson said. “It’s true that the mission drives everything you do. To care for America’s heroes -- you don’t find a better mission.”

COVID nurse Rachel Scherf

Nurse Rachel Scherf says there is no better place to work than the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. (Photo by Benjamin Slane)

“It’s an honor to be able to work here,” said registered nurse Justin Neal, who spent six years in the U.S. Army before becoming a nurse. “It’s not just being a nurse; it’s taking the Veteran in mind and really helping to change their lives for the better.”

It’s not unusual for VA nurses to have family members or friends who are Veterans, which makes the connections to the patients a little more personal.

Larson said her father and her uncles were World War II Veterans. And while she wasn’t a VA nurse while they were living, their service still permeates her work.

“They had amazing lives of dedication to the military,” she said, noting that Veterans “like to share their stories.”

“That’s why they come here in the first place, because they feel this camaraderie. … These halls are amazing to walk down … because you see these guys, and they all support each other. It’s neat to know you’re giving these guys something they need.”

That strong bond between the nurses and the Veterans creates a family atmosphere, Neal said.

“It’s probably the best thing about working here,” he said. “When you’re in the hallways, everybody is enjoyable and nice and saying, ‘Hi’ to you.

“You get to see a lot of the same Veterans throughout your career, and it becomes a big family.”

And like a family, there can be good days and bad days. Patients sometimes get surly with nurses or lash out. Nobody likes being in the hospital, and the nurses understand that. So they take the bad with the good and do what is best for the Veterans.

“They’re grumpy, and they want to go home, but they do apologize to us,” Larson said.

“They really do appreciate us as nurses and what we do for them,” Larson said, choking back tears. “That’s quite an emotional thing – the thanks you get from the Veterans.”

The benefits

Benefits for nurses at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center:

  • Health, dental and vision insurance.
  • HSA, FSA, life insurance and long-term care insurance.
  • Ongoing professional development; support and scholarship programs for continuing education.
  • Flexible scheduling.
  • No forced time off.
  • Retirement benefits, including the Thrift Savings Plan (equivalent to 401K).
  • Pension benefits after a minimum of five years of service and meeting all federal requirements.
  • Ability to reassign to another VA facility and not lose sick leave, paid time off, seniority or licensing.
  • Ten paid federal holidays for full-time RNs.
  • Annual leave (vacation): - Full time: 26 days per year. - Part time: Earn one hour for each 10 hours in pay status.
  • Sick leave: - Full time: 13 days per year. - Part time: Earn one hour for each 20 hours in a pay status. 

Interested in becoming a nurse at the Milwaukee VA? Send your resumes and questions to VHAMIWHRJobApplications@va.gov with a subject line of RN Positions.

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