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President's Message

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Monday, June 22, 2020













Kelly D. Skinner and Catherine Giasson


Dear NOVA Members,

After thoughtful consideration, NOVA’s 40th Annual Meeting: Celebrating NOVA’s Legacy and Promise of NOVA’s Future is transitioning into a virtual experience. We have been monitoring the situation related to the evolving coronavirus outbreak, and don’t want to put our attendees, speakers, sponsors and staff at risk. Your health and well-being is the priority. Plus, there are still uncertainties related to the VA travel ban. We also need to be sensitive to the economic pressures individuals and institutions are experiencing which would likely impact our members’ ability to attend. This was felt to be the best and safest course of action.


We are excited about this new virtual direction that allows members to come together in a time of crisis when a sense of connection is needed. NOVA’s Virtual Annual Meeting will kick off on the same dates, October 29 – 30, 2020. The NOVA Annual Meeting Planning Committee with Chairpersons: Cathy Giasson, DNP, MHA, RN, NE-BC and TJ Wilcox-Olson, MHS, RN, have designed a sensational, engaging and informative two-day event this year – all focusing on providing outstanding care for our Nation’s Veterans. The virtual program will include the previously scheduled general sessions with the same great presentations and speakers who have already committed to present, award recognition, poster presentations, vendor sessions, and opportunities for interaction. The presentations will provide continuing education credits and be accessible on demand to maximize convenience. You'll enjoy the same innovative content, dynamic speakers, and welcoming network of nursing colleagues you’ve always enjoyed during NOVA conferences -- just all in a virtual environment. We hope you are staying well and caring for yourself, and we are looking forward to having you join us online from the comfort of your own home as we host our virtual 2020 conference. NOVA’s ruby anniversary is a special one, a reason to celebrate, and one that should not be missed!


Are you suffering from quarantine fatigue? It has been a long couple of months practicing social distancing and not knowing when the restrictions related COVID-19 will all end. Does the idea of travelling when it is safe to do so interest you? If so, here is the schedule for NOVA Annual Meetings.


2021   Las Vegas, Nevada

2022   Savannah, Georgia

2023   Washington DC – Crystal City


NOVA conferences are opportunities to connect with other dedicated VA nurses from across the nation to renew your commitment and passion for caring for America’s heroes. Are you raring to go? I don’t know about you, but I can't wait to participate in NOVA’s future events. Stay tuned for details.


Thank you for your support and understanding as we adjust to the challenges of a global pandemic!


With appreciation,



Kelly D. Skinner, DNP, APRN, NP-C, GNP-BC, CRRN, WCC, CFCN  


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FED Benefits Center

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Thursday, June 18, 2020



Life’s What If’s. We have all thought of them from time to time.  Some we gladly welcome and others bring hardship - - things that affect medical issues, financial, relationships…there are many.  Some may only affect us personally, however others can affect our families, coworkers, neighbors, and communities.  As we have seen in recent months, there are some that have wide-spread ramifications.  Preparation for some of the What If’s is possible though.  

From our inception, FED Benefits Center has existed to assist federal employees in preparing for some of life’s What If’s.  One that has taken the spotlight in the last couple months, although it is really a continual concern is the answer to the question:  How do I pay my bills if I am injured or sick and can’t earn a living?   What would my family do?    

There are answers to these questions:

1.  Self Insure – this comes in the form of either having enough savings to weather the storm or having enough sick and annual leave to bridge that gap when you are out of work.  It is recommended that we have 6 to 12 months of living expenses saved for the What If’s.  Although some are able to achieve this high goal, in our 20 years of working with and getting to know federal employees across the nation, we have found that this to be one of the most significant concerns for the vast majority of employees. 

2. Friends and Family – although intentions are good and this may be a short-term assistance, it is generally not thought of as a viable option if someone is out of work for 3 months, 6 months, 9 months or longer.

3. Ignoring the concern – not addressing the problem as a possibility or taking the ‘I’ll figure it out if it happens’ approach.  

4. Short term disability benefits – these plans are designed to provide income when you are unable to work due to injury or sickness.  There are many parts to a benefit like this.  Several of which could drastically alter the amount or length of monthly assistance.   Below are a few to consider when exploring plans:    

a) Benefit Period – the length of time, per incident, the plan will provide the
chosen monthly benefit

b) Benefit Amount – the dollar amount per day/week/month that the plan
will provide

c) Elimination Period – the unpaid waiting period at the beginning of a
claim, where applicable

d) Offsets – any other payments that could reduce the monthly benefit
amount due to you

e) Pre-existing conditions – how previous medical issues are treated within
the plan and specifically what definition is being used

f) Exclusions – what diagnoses are not covered by the plan

g) Maternity - there can be different rules based on date of conception and
method of conception (as it relates to pre-existing conditions)   

We can help you navigate some of the What If’s. We would love the opportunity to discuss any of the topics above or if you have questions about other ways FED Benefits Center works with federal employees, call us at 800 440-2468, email us at, or schedule an appointment that fits your schedule at by clicking on the ‘Nova Newsletter’ link there.


FEGLI Analysis – Cancer/Cardiac Benefits - Accident Plans - Critical Illness protection – Dental/Vision

FED Benefits Center - Your Advisors from Career Start through Retirement - 800.440.2468

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Chapter 226 Update

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Kelly D. Skinner, DNP, APRN, NP-C, GNP-BC, CRRN, WCC, CFCN
NOVA Chapter 226
VA Boston Healthcare System

NOVA Member Recognition 


Wound Healing Awareness Month and Certified Wound Care Specialists Week

Did you know that June is Wound Healing Awareness Month and June 15 - 19, 2020 is Certified Wound Care Specialists Week? A shout out to all the NOVA nurses at the VA Boston Healthcare System who are certified in wound and ostomy care.  Here are some of them. 



Don’t forget to complete this quick NOVA Membership Survey. Click Here to take the Survey. Be sure to include your professional credentials related to degrees, licensure and certifications. 


Memorial Day Commemoration

NOVA members, Gilda Cain, Nurse Manager in the Community Living Center (CLC) and Mike Preston, Nurse Manager in Mental Health, participated in the Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony at the Brockton Campus.


   *Memorial Day Commemoration Photos Courtesy of VA Boston Healthcare System


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Summer 2020: Resources for Balancing Mental Health & COVID-19

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Summer 2020:  Resources for Balancing Mental Health & COVID-19

   Summertime is here and, after so many stressful months in America, summer getaways are sorely needed. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic persisting in the United States, those getaways, or even just a break from the stress, are in jeopardy of being canceled or rescheduled for a later date.

   NOVA members aren’t the only ones feeling pressure from incredibly demanding and at times difficult jobs. A 2018 survey by the American Psychological Association found that about one-third of U.S. workers state their workload makes it difficult for them to take time off and about a quarter worry they’ll miss important information or opportunities when they take vacation time.

   When the stress reaches the heights seen in recent months, it’s important that NOVA members take time to de-stress. The following may help NOVA members improve their time off during the summer months.

Getting Physically and Mentally Recharged

   The first thing we must realize is that taking some time off, like an extended weekend or a vacation, can significantly improve our physical and mental health.

   According to the American Institute of Stress, 40% of workers feel their job is very or extremely stressful. The stress can cause a person to become more irritable, depressed, and anxious. It can also affect your memory and result in making poorer decisions.

   Taking time off helps to reduce stress by taking you out of environments and activities that produce your stress and anxiety. Another benefit is improved productivity. (Yes, really!) Workers required to take time off report being more productive than workers who spent more time working. People who take time off are less likely to experience burnout and be more creative and productive.

   Research has also shown that vacations can improve sleep. Restless nights and disruptions in sleep are often attributed to stress. A vacation or taking some time off can interrupt bad sleeping habits and get you back on track to more restful sleep.

Vacation Canceled? Try Some Alternatives

   Many people have had to cancel their summer vacation due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but don’t cancel your time away from work just yet. While you may not be able (or comfortable enough) to go on that vacation, there are ways to still have a relaxing time.

   Consider a staycation, which is a vacation that you take at home. Your hometown or local area can have a wide range of interesting and fun experiences (just remember to be safe, wear a mask and continue to socially distance). Write down a list of places you’ve always wanted to visit or revisit in the area and see how many of them that you can cross off the list during your staycation. If areas are still closed due to COVID-19, make a plan to virtually visit them during your time off.

   Some museums like the Louvre, Smithsonian, and National Gallery of Art are offering virtual tours that allow you to explore online exhibits without ever leaving your couch. If you had planned on going to see the Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at the Louvre, this is a great way to do that without the lines of people. Plus, it’s also a great way to have the kids learn more about the world around them in the safety of your home.

Summer Camp Alternatives

   While some camps are opening, others are only open for part of the summer season, or may not open at all. If you’re left trying to entertain little ones during your time off, the following are some fun substitutions, family style!

  • Make time to get active: Set a time each day to for bike riding or going for a walk or hike.
  • Start cooking: Have the kids step into the kitchen and teach them some of the basics with some age-appropriate roles. You can even take it one step further and try one new recipe each week from cuisines across the world, bringing your canceled vacation back to you.
  • Tap into creativity: Explore YouTube or Pinterest to search for some kid-friendly projects. Or try a science experiment with them using household items like baking soda, food coloring, and vinegar. You can even set up a virtual show-and-tell with their friends to show them what they did during the day.

   While canceling a vacation due to the COVID-19 pandemic is a downer, don’t cancel your time off! You can still benefit from that time away from the stress of work by exploring places near and far, or getting some quality family time in for you and the kids. You’ve been on the frontlines working through a pandemic—you deserve to make some time for yourself.

Tags:  benefits of good mental health  combatting mental health and covid  COVID-19  emotional health  managing seasonal depression  mental health resources  mental health resources for medical professionals  NOVA  professional nursing organization  summer activities 

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New Learning Opportunities

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Looking to advance your education and gain CE credits? Well, look no further! NOVA provides Webinars twice a month hosted by dynamic speakers! Here are some of the upcoming webinars to look forward to!

Click here to Register for the latest upcoming webinar!

Have questions? Contact Membership Coordinator, Ashley Lovelace at

Happy Learning Everyone!

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2020 ANCC Certified Nurse Awards

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Congratulations to Kelly D. Skinner, NOVA President! She is the winner of the 2020 ANCC Certified Gerontological Nurse Practitioner Award. 

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Membership May Campaign Results

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Goal: The goal of this campaign was to increase NOVA membership by 3% by the end of May 2020.

Method: Current members were placed in a friendly competition to see who could bring in the most new members within 30 days. There were four chances to win a prize; 3 individual prizes and 1 chapter prize.


1st Place Cynthia Carder (winner of 1-year free membership) 

                         12 people recruited for Fayetteville VAMC

2nd PlaceJulie Szegda (winner of Classic III Littmann Stethoscope) 

                          8 people recruited for VA Boston HCS

3rd PlaceHeather Roth (winner of a gift card to the NOVA gift shop) 

                          4 people recruited for W. J. Bryan Dorn VAMC 

Chapter PrizeWashington DC VAMC (All participants will be placed in a raffle to determine who will receive a discount on registration for the 40th Annual Meeting) This Chapter had 5 participants and each participant recruited one member.


There were  135 participants with Membership May including  new members and renewals. This number is made up of new members and old members that had a lapse in membership. Members who decided to come back to NOVA were eligible for the Membership May discount.

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Member of the Month

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Tuesday, June 16, 2020


Carol McTavish, LPN
NOVA Chapter 226
VA Boston Healthcare System
Boston, MA


 Carol McTavish began her nursing career at the VA Boston Healthcare System in October 1992 after graduating from the Lemuel Shattuck School of Nursing in Boston, MA. She admits, “I felt an instant bond with the Veterans.” Carol worked on a medical oncology unit for 8 years. While working there, she was honored to receive the LPN of the Year Award. Carol later worked on the Dialysis Unit from 2001-2012, and obtained the Dialysis Nurse Certification and Dialysis Technician Certification. She currently works in the Preadmission Testing Clinic and has been recognized as the recipient of the Employee of the Month Award and the Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Nursing. Carol has been the Chairperson of the LPN Professional Standards Board for the past 15 years, and enjoys presenting to the new hires during New Employee Orientation.


Carol is an active member of NOVA. She has served as co-chair of the NOVA LPN/LVN Committee and is a member of the NOVA Awards Committee. Carol attended the NOVA Annual Meeting in Miami, Florida in October 2019 and NOVA on the Hill Day in Washington, D.C in March 2020. She is scheduled to present a webinar entitled: “Evolution of the LPN in the VA” on June 24, 2020. This will be her third time presenting a NOVA webinar. Carol shared that, “I am truly honored to come to work to serve the Veterans and to serve as a mentor to the many LPNs that I have met over the years. Working at the VA and being a member of NOVA provides me that opportunity.” 


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Deployment to New York City

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Mark S. Zacheis, BSN, RN
Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital
NOVA Chapter 224

Mark Zacheis, an Army Veteran and NOVA member, volunteered for the first Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System (DEMPS) deployment to New York City in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
He works for the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital (Bedford VAMC) as a Clinical Nurse Educator and was deployed for two weeks to the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System in Manhattan, New York in April 2020.


Mark shares that, “The experience was, at times, heart-wrenching, magnificent, tragic, and euphoric. On so many different levels, this was an experience I will carry with me for life.


The intensity of being at the hospital was amazing. Everybody was treated with respect and incredibly it didn't take long for our team to work like a well-oiled machine. Prior to beginning the actual nursing part of the job, the team leader reviewed everyone's qualifications to see where the best fit was for each volunteer. Personally, I was asked if I had any experience with dialysis, heart monitoring, ACLS, and ventilators. I let them know that I had some experience working as a Spinal Cord Injury nurse at the St. Louis VA as well as several years at the VA Boston Healthcare System. They also asked if I was comfortable working on a medical intensive care step-down unit. Like all the volunteers (now friends) who came to work during this rotation, I said that I would go wherever they needed me. That is where I was assigned; I worked 12-hour shifts/6 days per week.


During my deployment, I couldn’t help but think about Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, how it all began and the positive impact on health care and clinical outcomes from the good work of nurses. The staff and the many volunteers were truly amazing. I could feel the beauty and teamwork of nursing; cooperation, communication, and collaboration from all. We had the same goal and strived to achieve success. MDs, RNs, LPNs, NAs, Housekeeping, Foodservice, and all the other staff really worked together. One physician on our team was an optometrist, one nurse specialized in urology, another nurse worked in dermatology, and I served as a Prevention and Management of Disruptive Behavior (PMDB) Coordinator, but despite our different backgrounds, we all helped each other, with whatever was needed. 

I am fortunate to have always had a great deal of support from my family and friends. My army training and my parental upbringing helped prepare me for this type of effort. I believe one can never have too many friends and while in New York I was lucky to make more friends who I now consider part of my VA family. The fact that Dr. Joan Clifford, the Director of the Bedford VAMC and Past NOVA President, and her Incident Commander, Sarah Carnes, met me and My Battle Buddy, Karla Calnan, RN, when we returned to our home station on a Sunday meant so much to me.

Throughout my VA career, I have been given numerous opportunities to grow and learn. If asked, I would go back and do another deployment - in a heartbeat. It is an honor to care for those who have served.


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Heard on the Hill

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Teresa Morris, Director, Advocacy & Government Relations

Greetings NOVA Members!

As we enter June, Members of Congress are moving closer to the final months of work and the end of the 116th Congress. With little time left to debate critical issues and with COVID-19 still very much with us – it will be a race to the finish to get funding bills passed and other important legislation finalized prior to them leaving DC to campaign for the November elections.

As I write this article, the House passed another stimulus package (HEROES Act) which included several provisions designed to give VA the tools needed to continue providing care during the public health emergency. The Senate has indicated they are not in favor of the $3 trillion dollar package and may work on their own language. As details emerge, I will of course pass along information to the NOVA membership as to anything affecting you and your role caring for Veterans.

NOVA continues advocating for all VA healthcare workers and has made our suggestions to Hill staff on what we deem important in any next steps in a stimulus package. We continue to update our COVID-19 Resource page and finished putting together our second survey taking the temperature of how things are going among frontline workers and within facilities nationwide.


The survey questions were updated but remain in the same context as the first so as to get a sense of how everyone is feeling about personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, communication within VA facilities, and other concerns.


Survey results showed some improvements in availability of PPE, but many are reusing what is provided daily, and find getting PPE difficult when needed. Communication between leadership, staff and Veterans is changing rapidly causing some confusion overall. Concerns about how the opening up of VA facilities (the Secretary announced his plans to begin reopening of various facilities in a phase in type manner) remained high as noted by the many comments made by NOVA nurses. 


To take a look at the survey questionnaire and responses, visit the NOVA website. Click Here


I urge you to continue your advocacy efforts and to speak opening and candidly to your leadership and also to let Congress know what is happening during the crisis – they want to know how things are going especially for those on the frontline taking care of Veteran and community patients.


A reminder that the Department of Veterans Affairs and both House and Senate VA Committees have resources on their website and social media sites with up to date information on the pandemic for Veterans and those taking care of them.

Thank you again for all you do and for your heroism every day!   

Stay Tuned!

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