By Hans Petersen
Thursday, May 7, 2015
VA nurses are a dynamic, diverse group of honored, respected, and compassionate professionals.
Meet three of the hundreds of VA nurses who embody all those qualities … and more.
Melissa Gonzales Lloyd: “I am privileged to be a VA Nurse.”
At VA, excellence in nursing is valued as essential for quality health care for those who served America. Dr. Melissa Gonzales Lloyd represents that excellence.
Lloyd is the Associate Director for Patient Care Services and Nursing at VA Loma Linda Healthcare System. She served as a nurse in the U.S. Army Reserves for eight years.
“As an Army Veteran, I find my VA position to be rewarding and inspirational. I oversee all patient care services, sterile processing service, nutrition and food services, and audiology. My love for leadership, quality care, teaching and being a nurse ‘first’ serves me well as a leader in such a dynamic environment.
Tears at Times of Crisis
“I believe the profession of nursing is an extremely gratifying vocation, and caring for American heroes is personally and professionally fulfilling.
“Nurses put their heart and soul into caring for those we have oftentimes never met before. We share tears at times of crisis, provide a healing touch during times of illness, and share in the peaceful moments of end of life.“As a VA nurse, the lives of these Veterans touch our hearts for eternity. Their stories of the ultimate sacrifice are why I am privileged to be a VA nurse. Simply put, I love my Veterans.”
A Family of 39 Veterans with 500 Years of Service
Lloyd says she became a VA nurse, “because my dedication to our country and passion in caring for Veterans is deeply rooted in my upbringing. My uncles in the photo above were very influential in this passion. Together, they have over 100 years of service. Myself included, we are a family of 39 military Veterans with over 500 years of service.
“I cannot think of any better way to use my skill, love for nursing, along with my personal philosophy and dedication to America’s brave men and women to give back to my profession, my country, and my family which made me who I am today.”
“My life is a blessed new experience.”
Lloyd explains that she make a conscious effort to “know myself as a person and as a leader. I focus on each day of my life as a blessed new experience. Each day I express my promise to love and treasure my family. I strive to enhance myself personally with the ultimate goal to advance within my career and be a provider and role model for my children.
“I enjoy spending time with my husband and my two beautiful children, doing anything that keeps us together, volunteering with our church, and reading a good book — non-medical!
“During my 13 years in leadership, I have a vested interest in the quality of nurses entering the profession. I have held faculty positions at various college schools of nursing, teaching leadership, critical care, and indirect care perspectives. Teaching has been rewarding and provides a venue for personal and professional growth.”
Degrees and Awards
Lloyd graduated as a Doctor of Nursing Practice and also holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees with a specialty in Healthcare Education and a national certification as a Progressive Care Certified Nurse.
She was awarded Soldier of the Year for three consecutive years at the 2291st U.S. Army Hospital and was recognized as New Mexico Nurse of the Year in 2013 in the category of Nursing Executive Leadership.
Lisa Roybal: “I wanted to be the expert.”
Lisa Roybal is a Nurse Practitioner at the Loma Linda, Calif. VA Medical Center.
She served in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps from 1984 to 2004, was assigned to eight duty stations and had 12 appointed jobs. She considers one of the highlights of her career was serving aboard the USNS Comfort during Operation Desert Shield.
Today, Roybal is the Women Veterans Program Manager for the VA Loma Linda Healthcare System.
Describing her job, she says, “I strive every day to do my best, listen and be present. Nursing is rarely boring or predictable. In this profession we are present at life’s most momentous events, from birth to death, from crisis to recovery. Working with the Veteran population, the results and rewards are often immediate.”
Roybal’s inspiration to be a nurse started with her father.
“Working with Veterans, the results and rewards are often immediate.”
“He was a Master Chief Hospital Corpsman in the U.S. Navy and he took me to the Long Beach Navy Hospital to speak to Navy nurses. They not only inspired me to go to nursing school but also to join the Navy after completing my degree.”
Her father, who served 31 years in the Navy, is not the only Veteran in her family. “My mother served two years in the Marine Corps, my brother was in the Army for nine years and I also have a nephew who is a lieutenant in the Marines.”
“I was like a kid in a candy store as a new nurse. Every specialty I was able to gain experience in, I wanted to be the expert. It was my experience working on labor and delivery that I found my final niche and I was a certified labor and delivery nurse for over eight years. I obtained my master’s degree as a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner in 1998.”
A Denver native (and avid Broncos fan), Roybal joined VA after retiring from the Navy.
“Here at VA, I use all the essential elements of nursing practice by delivering patient-centered holistic care to my patients. I am inspired every day by other women Veterans and their accomplishments.”
Russell Coggins: From Desert Storm Gunner to ICU Nurse Manager
VA nurses provide Veteran health care across a range of services for acute and chronic conditions in hospital, outpatient, and long-term care settings. They engage in emergency management and disaster preparedness both in VA and beyond.
Russell Coggins joined the Army in 1988 and trained on the M60A3 Main Battle Tank.
While stationed in Korea, he completed the Cheju-Do Challenge and a 300-foot Australian Repel at the Cheju-Do Training Center.
During his assignment at Ft. Benning, Ga. he attended the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare Defense Course. He deployed with his unit to Southwest Asia for Desert Shield and later Desert Storm.
Why did he become a nurse? “After active duty, I started at Western Carolina University and had no idea what I wanted to major in.
“One day in chemistry class I heard some fellow students discussing how hard it was to get into the nursing program. And I started thinking of the times I was in the hospital while in the Army, the conversations I had with the nurses, and how they assisted me and others in our time of need.
“And I thought that if they could do it, so could I.”
“Nursing is one of the most rewarding professions.”
Today, Coggins works for VA’s Office of Nursing Services as the Clinical Nurse Adviser for Critical Care, and is chair of the ICU Field Advisory Committee. He is also Nurse Manager of the Surgical ICU at the Charles George VAMC in Asheville, N.C.
“Nursing, for me, is one of the most rewarding professions. As nurses, we see people at their best and worst. We are there in the middle of the night when a patient is scared. We are there to support the Veteran and their family when they are moving beyond this existence.
“We all have a little of Florence Nightingale in us as we demand excellence from ourselves and those who come into contact with our Veterans.”
Coggins believes he is able to make a positive impact for Veterans. “I strive to elevate the competence of the nurses that I have the pleasure to support and ensure they have what they need to provide unparalleled care.”
Want to be a VA nurse? Start here.