In Parts 2 through 6 of this10 part series, we will explore the registered nursing career path. From the time of Florence Nightingale, nurses have had a unique responsibility of providing health care at all levels within the healthcare industry. As members of an independent health profession, nurses collaborate with physicians and other health professionals to improve the quality of life, prevent disease, and promote good physical and mental health.
There are 108,616 medical nurses, practical nurses, and nursing assistants employed by the federal government of which 1,624 work overseas  or in the U.S. Territories. Most work for the Veterans Administration (VA) , HHS, and the various military departments. There are abundant opportunities to find nursing jobs at over 1,600 veterans care facilities including 152 hospitals, 965 outpatient clinics, 133 community living centers, and 293 VET centers. Add to this a good number of positions at federal prisons  and with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Health and Human Services .
Positions for registered medical nurses, practical nurses, and nursing assistants are available in all major metropolitan areas in the United States, in the U.S Territories and overseas at numerous locations. There are many occupational titles for this group as delineated within each of the job descriptions below including links to current job vacancies for each occupation.
NOTE: Many think that you have to be a veteran to be employed by the federal government, especially in the Veterans Administration. In 2013 thirty percent of all federal workers were veterans. This means that 7 out of 10 federal workers have not served in the military and this means that non-vets have an excellent chance of employment in all agencies including with the Veterans administration. Explore all of your options and don’t hesitate to apply for any and all federal jobs that you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to compete.
Of the 77,456 registered medical nurses employed by the federal government most work for the VA, HHS, and the various military departments. The average annual salary for registered nurses is $81,407. This series includes positions that require a professional knowledge of nursing. Positions involve providing care to patients in hospitals, clinics, occupational health units, homes, schools and communities; administering anesthetic agents and supportive treatments to patients undergoing surgery or other medical procedures; promoting better health practices; teaching; performing research in one or more phases of the field of nursing; or consulting and advising nurses who provide direct care to patients.
Registered Nurse (GS-610) Career Path
There are many different nursing specialties within this occupation. The Baltimore VA Medical Center, a division of the VA Maryland Health Care System is featured here. This Medical Center is a general medical and surgical hospital in Baltimore, MD, with 727 beds. It is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) and it is also a teaching hospital. Survey data for the latest year available shows that 30,000 patients visited the hospital’s emergency room. The hospital had a total of 6,719 admissions. Its physicians performed 650 inpatient and 2,200 outpatient surgeries.
Roger Weikert is a progressive care certified Clinical Nurse Leader, certified medical surgical registered nurse, Nurse 2 Step 5 and has been a nurse for 7 years. Weikert truly enjoys working with people and helping them. He takes special interest in the understanding of how the human body functions and its Pathophysiology (Merriam Dictionary defines this as the physiology of abnormal states; specifically: the functional changes that accompany a particular syndrome or disease). Weikert indicates the most rewarding and difficult part of his job is, “Educating everyone that I come into contact with during my work day”. Weikert recommends nursing careers “due to the opportunities and the many career paths that you can choose with a nursing degree.”
General Education/ Experience Requirements for all Registered Nurses
All nursing specialists must be a U.S. citizen to apply. However, you do not need to be a Veteran to apply for federal government or VA jobs. A full-unrestricted Licensure, Certification, or Registration is required for the particular state that you work in.
Nurse I Level III – An Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Diploma in Nursing and approximately 2-3 years of experience. An ADN or Diploma in Nursing and a bachelor’s degree in a related field and approximately 1-2 years of experience. A BSN with approximately 1-2 years of experience, or a Master’s degree in nursing (MSN) or related field with a BSN and no experience.
Nurse II – A Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) with approximately 2-3 years of experience, or ADN or Diploma in Nursing and a bachelors degree in a related field and approximately 2-3 years experience or a Master’s degree in nursing or related field with a BSN and approximately 1-2 years experience, or a doctoral degree in nursing or meets basic requirements for appointment and has a doctoral degree in a related field with no experience.
Nurse III – Master’s degree in nursing or related field with BSN and approximately 2-3 years experience or Doctoral degree in nursing or related field and approximately 2-3 years experience.
Physical Requirements for all Registered Nurses
You will be requried to do heavy lifting, 45 pounds and over; heavy carrying, 45 pounds or over; straight pulling 8-12 hours, pushing 8-12 hours; reaching above shoulder; use of fingers, both hands required; walking 8-12 hours; standing 8-12 hours; kneeling 8-12 hours; repeated bending 8-12 hours; both legs required. In addition the ability for rapid mental and muscular coordination simultaneously; ability to distinguish basic colors; hearing (aid permitted); emotional/mental stability; keyboarding 8-12 hours; viewing computer screens 8-12 hours. These tasks listed will be performed intermittently over the course of the scheduled shift.
Education and Duties of a Clinical Nurse Leader
There are different duties for each specialty within the registered nurse occupation. For part 2 in the series our interviewee, Roger Weikert, is a clinical nurse manager. There are more specific education requirements and duties for this category.
- Masters degree in Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) with certification as a CNL
- Minimum of 3 to 4 years of professional acute care nursing experience and an active Basic Life Support (BLS) certification at the time of appointment
- Demonstrates the ability to work effectively and develop sound relationships with patients, caregivers and other professionals
- Act as a liaison between the nursing staff and the medical and ancillary staff
- Assist with coordination of education programs to assist staff in improving their performance
- Modeling the utilization of evidence-based research to improve practice
- Promote an environment that fosters employees to perform to their full potential
- Promote new initiatives
- Assist with coordination and outcomes of new programs and inpatient operations
In the next article, part 3 of this series, I will feature 3 additional interviewees from the Baltimore VA Medical Center, a division of the VA Maryland Health Care System. Part 3 will present a broader picture of each nurses’ unique specialty.
- Michele Hammonds, Communications Specialist, US Department of Veterans Affairs, VHA Office of Public Communications (10B2B)
- Photos provided by Baltimore VA Medical Center, a division of the VA Maryland Health Care System.
Other career information
- VA Web Site: www.va.gov 
- http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm 
- GS-0600 Nursing Jobs 
Helpful Career Planning Tools
- Applying For Federal Jobs 
- Civil Service Exams 
- Veteran’s Preference 
- Interview Preparation 
- Take Charge of Your Federal Career ; An Action Oriented Career Management Workbook for Federal Employees
Visit our other informative site
- http://FederalJobs.net  (Explore occupations and find jobs)
- http://PostalWork.net  (Explore all postal occupations and prepare for postal exams)
- http://www.SearchFedJobs.com (Search federal, state, and private sector jobs in your area)
- Federal Employee’s Career Development & IDP Center 
The information provided may not cover all aspects of unique or special circumstances, federal and postal regulations, and programs are subject to change. Our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic human resource guidance and factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM, the postal service or any federal entity. You should consult with school counselors, hiring agency personnel offices, and human resource professionals where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.
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