Nurses Graduate from new VA Program - VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System
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VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System

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Nurses Graduate from new VA Program

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(From left) Katherine Bravo, PhD, (UNMC-College of Nursing (CON)), Susan Ward, PHD, (Methodist CON), Julie DNP, Acting Director, Gina Crudden, MSN, Program Director, Natalie Uhing, BSN, Resident, Robert Laws, MSN, Program Coordinator, Elaine Purvinis, BSN, Resident, Chad Haiar, BSN, Resident, Jeremiah Linden, BSN, Resident, Patrick Kolvek, BSN, ResidentManz, PhD, CUMC-CON, Dr. Renee M. Woehrer, (Associate Chief of Staff for Education); Eileen Kingston,.

By By Kevin Hynes
Monday, August 9, 2021

OMAHA, Neb. – Five new nurses took a major step forward in their professional healthcare careers when they graduated from the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System new one-year Post-Baccalaureate Registered Nurse Residency Program on Tuesday, July 13.

The new program is designed to provide new registered nurses with important and valuable medical experiences by working in a variety of settings within the Omaha VA Medical Center hospital. The program is funded by the VA’s Office of Academic Affiliation. The programs is conducted in partnership with Creighton University, Methodist College and the University of Nebraska.

Graduating from the VA program were Chad Haiar, Patrick Kolvek, Jeremiah Linden, Elaine Purvinis and Natalie Uhing. All five graduates have accepted nursing positions with the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System’s Omaha VA Medical Center.

“Congratulations to each and every one of you on completing this important step in your nursing career,” said Dr. Eileen Kingston, acting director for VA NWIHCS

According to Kingston, who served as VA NWIHCS Nurse Executive and Associate Director for Patient Care prior to becoming the acting director, the experiences the five nurses gained over the past year are extremely important in their continued professional development. Not only were the nurses able to gain increased insight into the many different roles that nurses fill within a hospital, they were also given opportunities learn more about the various branches of healthcare.

“We wanted to build on the foundation that you gained during nursing school and help you better understand the relationships and responsibilities that exist within a hospital,” Kingston said. “We also wanted to help you build your confidence in your skills while also giving you the chance to think about the various nursing career paths that are now open to you.”

Kingston said that by gaining confidence and understanding, the nurses will now be better able to help take care of Veterans. It will also give them the experiences they need to be able to spot areas where the hospital team can improve its patient care services. “Please don’t be afraid to speak up, because you will see things that we don’t,” she added. “I look forward to working with you.”

According to the new graduates, the VA program was indeed eye-opening.

“The experiences have been incredible,” said Jeremiah Linden, who graduated from Clarkson College in May 2020. Prior to that, Linden had worked for 13 years as a quality analyst for a local insurance agency. “I now have a better idea of how am going to fit into this team and contribute to the VA’s mission.”

That knowledge, he said, was based upon the many opportunities he received while working within the various Omaha VAMC departments that offer both general and specialized services to Nebraska and Western Iowa Veterans. “The best thing about this program for me was the opportunity to see so many areas of nursing and to experience on-the-job training, giving me a much clearer picture of how each (department) operate(s),” Linden wrote in his graduation ceremony narrative.

One of the biggest benefits, he said during the graduation ceremony, was the opportunity to work face-to-face with Veterans, providing them with the best care possible. “There is no greater honor than serving Veterans who have given so much,” he added. “I am excited to be part of the VA family.”

Elaine Purvinis agreed. Like Linden, nursing is a second career for Purvinis. Prior to attending nursing school, Purvinis was a longtime Texas math teacher, working at both the high school and collegiate levels. 

Realizing she needed a new challenge, Purvinis decided to enroll into the accelerated nursing program at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas. Unfortunately, she said, hospital opportunities were limited there for Purvinis and her cohorts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, when she heard about the VA new Post-Baccalaureate Registered Nurse Residency Program, she quickly applied to become part of the inaugural class.

“I was looking for a place that offered the best training and the VA seemed to be it,” Purvinis said.

The experiences Purvinis gained over the past year exceeded her hopes, she added. “It’s been amazing,” she said, adding that working on the medical surgical floors or assisting within the hospital operating rooms allowed her to gain important confidence in her newly learned nursing skills.

Purvinis added that the staff at the Omaha VAMC was extremely interested in giving her opportunities to learn. “What sets this place apart – in fact it’s what sets the VA apart – is the incredible sense of camaraderie among the staff,” said Purvinis, who has accepted a fulltime nursing position within the Omaha VAMC hospital. “I am definitely glad to have been a part of it.”

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