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Remarkable stories show how VA nurses transform health care

VA nurses routinely give their time and talent to care for our Veterans, and it is through their efforts that we continue to provide the highest quality health care.

As we celebrate Nurses Month at VA, here are a few special stories of time and talent provided by our nursing staff.

In the air and at home

Katie Lunning, an Intensive Care Unit nurse manager at Central Iowa VA, also serves as a Minnesota Air National Guard air transport nurse. It was her training at VA that she credited with offering her what she needed during a dangerous deployment.

“I appreciate all of my experience at VA, my VA training and my VA ICU nurse experience,” she said. “That was really where I got the training it took to accomplish the mission.”

That mission was evacuating wounded soldiers during a six-month tour based in Qatar, a deployment that earned her the Distinguished Flying Cross, making her only the second nurse in history to receive the honor.

“My whole background has been at VA so I’m appreciative of everything VA has given me. I’m very grateful to not only take care of Veterans on the front end but I’m also very passionate about working at VA and continuing the care for Veterans here at home.”

50+ years and counting

Joe Herndon started his health care career in 1971 as an Air Force nurse, serving 12 years in Spain, Fort Worth, San Antonio and in California, where he supported NASA and the first eight space shuttle landings with medical support at the Edwards Air Force Base Rodgers Dry Lake facility.

Leaving active military service in 1983, Herndon sought a new challenge that would allow him to focus on patient care. He found that new opportunity with VA in Bonham, Texas, where he has worked ever since.

In his more than a half-century of nursing, Herndon chose to remain in hands-on patient care and education rather than continue on a senior management career path, allowing patients and coworkers to continue to benefit from his experience.

“Our patients need and require our caring and empathy,” said Herndon. “VA health care isn’t all about numbers. It’s about the people who gave so selflessly to our nation.”

From the battlefield to the medical field

Eduardo Alegria never dreamed his front-line deployment to Iraq as an artilleryman would change his life and put him on a path to becoming a nurse.

Alegria earned a Purple Heart during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and it was his experience with the medics and health care personnel at home and abroad that guided his choices.

“Something just told me I wanted to be the guy who helped me,” he said.

After his wounds healed, Alegria trained to become a medic and prepare for his second deployment. After leaving the military, he chose to put his training back to work and became a nurse, which ultimately led to his current position at Bay Pines VA.

“Being here feels like being part of a big family,” Alegria said. “When they learn I’m a Veteran, I think it puts them at ease and it gives them a sense of appreciation knowing that, like them, I understand what it’s like to serve.”

The job of a lifetime

Satoris Goode knew she wanted to be a nurse, even as far back as elementary school.

“There has never been a time during my career that I thought of doing anything else. Nursing is truly who I am,” she said as she was honored by her local news for her compassionate service, which has touched the lives of so many in the community.

Since coming to Tuskegee VA 3 decades ago, she has been working in Long Term Care, which she described as her passion, and she takes great pride in providing services to our nation’s Veterans.

“Every Veteran who walks through the doors or that I talk to on the phone, I consider them to be my Veteran,” she explained. “Whether I am managing a patient over the phone, in my office, or walking a Veteran to their desired location, I strive to help them and meet their needs.”

Work at VA

Find your calling and learn how you can make a difference working as a nurse at VA.

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