The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has created a number of programs to assist its employees with further education and future advancement. The programs fall into two broad categories: educational programs most closely tied to employee professional development and highly relevant educational topics enabled by work on face-to-face conferences. In FY 2018, more than 95,848 people took one or more of the programs offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Employee Education System (EES).
EES is dedicated to providing VA health professionals with new learning opportunities through the VA’s nationwide Employee Education Resource Centers (EERCs). These centers provide VA professionals with the most up-to-date resources, a collaborative environment, and necessary training.
“VA health care professionals are constantly learning, from diagnostic methodology to advanced treatments and the latest in experimental technologies,” according to EES, “and we’re continually improving our ability to provide top-notch care for America’s veterans. Continuous learning is essential to the work we do. That’s why we also encourage VA employees to pursue higher education by offering one of the most comprehensive education support programs in the nation.
“One excellent support tool is the Education Debt Reduction Program [EDRP], which authorizes VA to provide student loan reimbursement to employees with qualifying loans who are in difficult-to-recruit positions in direct patient care. Participants may receive up to $120,000 toward a qualified loan over a five-year period, covering tuition and other reasonable educational and living expenses, including fees, books, supplies, equipment/materials, and laboratory costs.”
In FY 2018, more than 95,848 people took one or more of the programs offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Employee Education System (EES).
While EDRP addresses debt from existing degrees, the Employee Incentive Scholarship Program (EISP) authorizes the VA to award scholarships to permanent full- and part-time VHA employees still pursuing degrees or training in health care disciplines for which recruitment and retention of qualified personnel is difficult. EISP led to a second program – the VA National Education for Employees Program (VANEEP) – which also provides scholarships to employees pursuing degrees or training in health care disciplines for which recruitment and retention of qualified personnel is difficult.
VANEEP provides scholarship and replacement-salary funding to VA facilities to allow certain scholarship participants who are enrolled full time in an approved education program to accelerate their degree completion by attending school full time. VANEEP participants agree to work at their VA facility during academic breaks and, in return, receive full salary and payment for education costs, including tuition, books, and certain fees.
Another program stemming from the legislative authority of EISP is the National Nursing Education Initiative (NNEI), a scholarship awarded to permanent full- and part-time VA registered nurses seeking baccalaureate and advanced nursing degrees from an authorized, accredited education program. This helps nurses meet the VA requirement to have a bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) degree to advance beyond the Nurse Level 1 position. However, NNEI scholarships also may be used to pursue other advanced degrees in related fields.
According to Dr. Elizabeth James, EES acting chief learning officer, one of the VA’s professional development programs provides educational project managers and technicians with training for master instructional designer certification.
“This training provides VHA clinicians, as well as veterans, the skills expected of world-class trainers, enhances their job performance, and enhances their opportunities for advancement within the organization,” she said. “Twelve Events employees earned this certification over the last two years [and VHA has gained] confident employees with critical job skills and the potential for advancement.