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Why VA: Donette Gray, RN/MSN

Everyone’s road to a VA career is unique. In the "Why VA" series, we’ll hear from VA Illiana nursing staff as they share their stories of why caring for Veterans is so special. In this edition, we hear from Donette Gray, RN/MSN.

Donette is a Home Based Primary Care Program Case Manager at VA Illiana’s Springfield location of care. She is a recipient of the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses (July 2019) and serves as a mentor for new VA nurses. 

How did you know a career in the medical field was for you? 

In high school, starting as a freshman, I volunteered as a candy striper at a local hospital. I did that for four years in high school and that exposed me to a variety of areas of care on a hospital unit. I got to work with nurses and see first-hand what value they offered to their patients. They included me in some of it and from then on, I knew that a career as an RN was perfect for me.  

I started my educational journey at Cardinal Stritch College (now Cardinal Stritch University) when I was 18 years old. There, I received my Associate of Science in Nursing. I passed my boards as an RN at age 20. I’ve been a nurse my entire adult life!  

Describe the work environment at VA Illiana. 

The work environment at VA is special because we are all here for the mission—providing the best care possible to our Veterans. Nurses at VA are supported in this mission by things like scholarship programs that help put the next degree in reach for them. 

I’ve been fortunate to continue my education as a lifelong learner. Since I entered the field, I’ve gone on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, and a Master of Science in Nursing degree. I’ve also been afforded the opportunity to earn other certifications and credentials in addition to my degrees. I’m certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Gerontological Nurse, and I also hold a certification in Public Health/Community Health Nursing. I believe pursuing education and credentials is a way of increasing one’s value to the patients and the organization overall. VA fosters an environment that encourages nurses to keep learning throughout their careers.  

What sets a VA career apart? 

When you go to work every day at VA, you get the feeling that people want to be there. My colleagues and I want to provide outstanding care. The Veterans we care for are genuinely happy to be receiving their care at VA.  

VA is special because I know we are striving together. We are always looking for new, holistic ways to better care for our Veterans. It's about talking through Veterans’ concerns in a comprehensive manner and providing a listening ear to hear everything on a Veteran's mind. Small things like that create a true atmosphere of respect and care. Caring for patients is a tremendous responsibility wherever you are in practice. That said, caring for Veterans carries an added element of service to those who have given us so much. It’s a unique and wonderful career. 

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