The Veterans Administration (VA), which manages more than 1,500 health care facilities in the United States, is the largest employer of nurses in the country. More than 800,000 RNs, LPNs, LVNs and APNs work for the VA, looking after the health care needs of America’s more than eight million veterans.
Veteran affairs nurses work with America’s veterans in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and American territories overseas. They perform a wide range of functions, from direct patient care to patient education to mental health nursing to research.
Because the VA health system is so large, the system offers many opportunities for advancement and mobility. Nurses are able to transfer to other health care facilities within the system without losing their seniority or benefits. In addition, the VA is committed to promoting nurses from within.
Work Environment and Duties
Veteran affairs nurses work in a variety of settings, from big city hospitals to nursing homes to community clinics. The only common denominator is that they are caring for veterans.
Job responsibilities for VA nurses vary widely. If there is a nursing position, it is likely you will find it within the VA system. VA nurses work in emergency rooms, in outpatient clinics, in operating rooms and in rehabilitation centers. They also help to educate veterans about preventative health practices and how to manage chronic health conditions.
Requirements and Education
In order to become a veteran affairs nurse, you must be a United States citizen, be fluent in English and be able to pass a physical exam (including a drug screening.) In addition, applicants must have successfully completed a RN, LPN, LVN or APN training course and be licensed to practice nursing in their state. VA nurses are hired locally, by the human resources department at each individual VA facility.
Salary and Career Outlook
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the salary for veteran affairs nurses ranges from $55,000 to $116,000. Exact salaries depend on level of experience, education, location, job responsibilities and tenure. VA nurses also receive a generous benefit package that includes paid leave, sick days, health and life insurance and access to the Federal Retirement program. VA nurses are paid extra for working nights, weekend and/or holidays.
As the US population ages, including veterans, and as more and more emphasis is placed on preventative care, there will continue to be a need for nurses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the need for registered nurses in general will increase by approximately 26 percent over the next eight years. That translates into approximately 711,900 new jobs.
If you enjoy working with a broad spectrum of the public and giving something back to this country’s service men and women, a career as a veterans affairs nurse just might be the right career for you.