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Go on-the-record with VA employees on “Talk About It Tuesday”

On our weekly “Talk About It Tuesday” (TAIT) LinkedIn Live broadcast, we spend a lot of time offering advice on how to make your VA career a reality, but what’s it actually like to work here?

When it comes to learning what we mean when we say #WorkAtVA, there’s no greater resource than the people who have already chosen a VA career. We recently welcomed several special guests onto the program, each from a different care program at VA, to share a glimpse it what makes their jobs special.

Cheryl Schmitz

Office of Geriatrics and Extended Care deputy executive director

Discussing VA’s commitment to geriatrics and extended care, Schmitz highlighted the incredible flexibility found in the program, which she felt was indicative of VA health care overall.

“I think health care is really special that way, because there really is a niche for everyone,” she said, “and it’s just a matter of finding the fit that works with your personality and what you like to do.”

According to Schmitz, there is not a clinical discipline that VA does not employ. Geriatrics in particular welcomes all sorts of clinical roles, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and more. There are even roles that are not clinical in nature that handle patient scheduling and other administrative duties.

“It takes all of us to make things work,” she explained. “It really is that difference of views, the differences of experiences, that really helps us be innovative and the best. It can very much start a career, regardless of your level or what your desires are, which is really neat.”

Further, Schmitz enlightened the “Talk About It Tuesday” audience by exploring what it takes to be a great candidate for a job at VA, first citing dedication — “to Veterans, to making things better, to your colleagues.”

“Every role is integral, but it really does take a team,” she said.

The second quality she cited was flexibility.

“VA is not an organization that stands on the premise of ‘We’ve always done it that way.’ We’re really working to make the programs and processes better,” Schmitz explained, “to provide higher quality and a safe environment, and that really means we have to be willing to change.”

Jennifer Silva

National social work program manager

That idea of flexibility, of being open to and embracing new processes and new ways of doing things, was echoed by Silva. She noted that, “We are looking for people who are really motivated to learn and motivated to come in and meet that mission, people who can be flexible, learn new programs.”

That flexibility, she continued, can extend to a variety of roles within VA, particularly as a social worker. Whether geographically or programmatically, you can find the place that’s right for you.

“You can move around,” Silva told “Talk About It Tuesday” viewers. “You can be employed in the homeless program. You can be employed in a program that serves Veterans in the geriatric population. You can work in mental health. You can work in the community. You can serve in primary care. You can work in administration. Having that flexibility really is a critical component.”

Flexibility also contributes to how we approach our mission of serving Veterans. There’s always room to grow and change, and always an opportunity to find a better way of doing things.

“VA is committed to Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors,” she explained. “We’re committed to high reliability and patient safety. We’re committed to making our organization more user-friendly, focused on customer service, and working very hard to make sure that our Veterans have the best experience possible.”

Matt Luitjohan

Recreational therapist

A good VA employee also has to be flexible in the work that they do. Luitjohan expressed that the qualities that make a good recreational therapist — and a good employee — can be seen in those who go above and beyond for the Veterans we serve.

“They’re the ones that put in the extra effort,” he said. “It’s not a 9-to-5 job. They put in the extra love and the extra support. They really have their Veterans’ best interests at heart, and they just want to give back and help these Veterans get back to doing all the things they really enjoy doing.”

When asked for advice to offer prospective VA candidates, Luitjohan kept it simple: be patient.

“It is a tough area to get into,” he noted, “but there’s reasons for that. There are lots of checks and balances to make sure that these Veterans are getting the best of the best. But definitely stick with it.”

Luitjohan also encouraged those watching “Talk About It Tuesday” to volunteer with VA, particularly if they want to work at VA. Reaching out to your local VA facilities and exploring those volunteer options can give an applicant a better sense of how the system works, and it all looks really great on an application.

“But don’t give up,” he stressed. “Keep pushing forward, because it is an excellent place to work.”

Work at VA

If you have the qualities we’re looking for, take the next step and find the VA career that’s right for you.

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