After three deployments, 13 moves, and an incredible variety of jobs and experiences, I retired from the military. As I began my transition to civilian life, I discovered many great clinical and leadership opportunities for emergency physicians in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). I accepted a position as chief of emergency medicine at the Memphis VA Medical Center and began to reflect on my decision and the new team I had joined.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 34 – No 03 – March 2015
So, why did I choose the VA? My primary motivation was to continue serving my country and our veterans. Approximately 9 million veterans are enrolled in the VA health system, the largest health care organization in the nation. More than 70 percent of all US physicians have received training from the VA. Our veterans have sacrificed much for our country, and I wanted to be involved in their care.
I asked my VA emergency medicine colleagues why they work at the VA, and a number of common themes emerged: service, stability, professional satisfaction, career advancement opportunities, and financial benefits. The box below contains a sample of the responses I received.
Each specialty in the VA convenes a field advisory committee to advise VA leadership on current specialty practice standards. The Emergency Medicine Field Advisory Committee comprises seven emergency department directors from across the nation and is dedicated to improving emergency care across the nation’s VA hospitals. This group of experienced VA physicians is working to create new emergency medicine policies, assist newer VA emergency medicine programs as they develop, and establish new affiliations with academic partners.
The VA is improving patient access. The new head of the VA, Secretary Robert A. McDonald, recently commented on patient access in an article published in the Baltimore Sun: “Fixing access to VA care is important; we have a plan to do that and are dedicated to implementing it. That process will take time—but it must be done, and we will be successful. Those who fully understand the value of the department in research, training, and clinical care understand that veterans and all Americans need and deserve their VA to continue providing exceptional care to those we serve.”1
The VA is a dynamic organization with lots of opportunities for emergency physicians. VA emergency medicine is very professionally rewarding, and I would encourage emergency physicians to consider joining the VA team.
Thank you to Curt Dill, MD, chief of the emergency department at VA-New York Harbor Healthcare System Manhattan Campus, and Chad S. Kessler, MD, MHPE, deputy chief of staff at the Durham VA Medical Center in North Carolina, for their contributions to this article.