Arlene Hady is a VA Nurse Academy success story. She was selected to be among the first San Diego State University nursing students to participate in the VA’s prestigious Nursing Academy program. Upon graduation in mid-2008, the VA San Diego Healthcare System hired her to practice nursing on medical, surgical and telemetry floors at the VA Medical Center. She now has a promising future with the VA and the broader field of nursing.
Hady, now a Registered Nurse, was a member of the Nursing Academy’s first student group here in San Diego. The Department of Veterans Affairs launched the program – a year-long clinical residency partnering VA medical centers with nearby nursing schools – in 2007. The VA San Diego and San Diego State’s School of Nursing were one of the first four teams in the VA’s five-year pilot program.
Under the supervision of VA San Diego Clinical Nurse Specialists and other licensed nurses, the program allows senior nursing students to apply their knowledge and skills in the medical center’s real-world health care environment.
According to Hady, “you learn so much from every nurse you shadow.” Hady was in her last year of nursing school when the VA launched the Nursing Academy pilot program and was already performing her clinical residency as part of another VA program – the VA Learning Opportunities Residency (VALOR) program.
“The [Nursing Academy] program provided a friendly educational environment and allowed you to talk to other students with shared experiences,” Hady said. And, it “showcases future opportunities such as Telehealth care, Health Care for Homeless Veterans and nursing administration.”
“Everything I would be expected to do once I was hired on as a staff nurse, I was doing in the program – charting, starting IV’s – anything a nurse would do, I was doing it a year before I was hired,” Hady said. In this regard, the Nursing Academy program “not only benefited me, it also benefited all my patients down the road.”
Asked why she chose to stay on at the VA San Diego Healthcare System after graduation, Hady replied, “because I love the staff I work with; I love my patients. … Why wouldn’t I choose the VA? Veterans are a very special population [and] nursing has a voice [in how the hospital provides care to its patients] and has strong interdisciplinary relationships within the hospital.”
Hady completed a video (beginning at 27 seconds) interview for Aztec for Life – a San Diego State Alumni news program – in which she discussed her experience as a VA Nursing Academy participant.