Students in Veterans Affairs Residency Program Gain Clinical Experience While Serving Veterans

A competitive program, the Veterans Affairs Learning Opportunity Residency (VALOR) allows nursing and pharmacy students to give back to those who have served our country while gaining hands-on experience in clinical settings at a Veterans Affairs (VA) facility.

“The VALOR program is designed to increase participants’ clinical skills, clinical judgment, and critical thinking while caring for our nation’s veterans,” Richard M. Cadle, PharmD, clinical pharmacy manager at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, said in a press release.

Pharmacy students who have completed their second year of an accredited doctor of pharmacy program and nursing students who have completed their junior year in an accredited clinical program and who have a minimum 3.0 GPA are eligible for the program. Participants complete a minimum of 400 hours working at a VA healthcare facility on a full- or part-time basis during the summer and have the option to continue working on a part-time basis throughout their final academic year.

With 73 program sites across the country, VALOR allows these student-interns to work with patients in a wide variety of settings and capacities, including internal medicine, ambulatory care, treatment of infectious diseases, mental healthcare, and home-based primary care. In the past, participants have concentrated on medication therapy management, particularly for geriatric populations; antibiotic management for veterans needing acute, long-term care; and protocol for limiting Benzodiazepine use in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Many students have been quick to praise the program for helping build their confidence as well as for the many opportunities it provides to apply what they have learned firsthand in the classroom. “The VALOR program has been a great learning experience. It is interesting to see how [the VA] pharmacy works and the systems they use,” Allison Bryce, a graduate of Texas A&M (TAMU) Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, said in a press release. Bryce served at the Michael E. DeBakey VA in the summer of 2014.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, VALOR participants who go on to work at a VA healthcare facility upon graduation are often hired one to three levels above the standard entry-level salary as they are already familiar with VA practices and requirements. However, even if these graduates choose another long-term career path, many have been inspired to begin their practice in VA hospitals because of the learning opportunities they provide. For example, the VALOR experience inspired Courtney J. Landry, who worked at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in 2012 and graduated from TAMU in 2013, to apply for a residency at a VA hospital for her first year of post-graduate pharmacy practice.