Veterans and those who love them make no shortage of sacrifices on behalf of this country. But one sacrifice that’s perhaps not as readily acknowledged is the obstacles both veterans and military spouses can face when building out their careers in the civilian realm. This Veteran’s Day, Fairygodboss and Getting Hired asked folks in the veteran and military family community to share the ways this identity has aided and at times impeded them professionally, as well as their No. 1 pieces of advice to fellow military community jobseekers.
Do you believe veterans and their families should have the right to build civilian careers free of obstacles and biases? Show your support and #Pledge4VetFamilies here.
Who: Angie Rhinehart
What: Registered Nurse/Lead Preceptor, George Washington University Hospital
Where: Woodbridge, VA
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I have been at GWUH for one year. Prior to that I was a contractor for the Navy at an overseas Branch Health Clinic.
As a military spouse, what are some of the more unique challenges you’ve had to face when it comes to finding and maintaining employment? Are there any obstacles people might not expect?
My greatest hurdle came just trying to get my degree. In nursing, it is next to impossible to transfer programs. You pretty much have to complete the one you start. Well, with waiting lists a year long and a two-year program, it becomes very hard to complete a program before PCSing again. It took me seven years to finally get to a place where school was a reality. I literally had my pinning ceremony/graduation and got on a plane for Japan the next day to PCS. I
I have been asked in interviews if I was a military spouse because my resume reads just like one. It isn’t that I am not proud of being one, but I fear the preconceived ideas people have about us.
Obtaining a new nursing license every time I move can be costly and time consuming which delays my employment process. Each state can require different things for licensing. I couldn’t get a license in VA without returning to CONUS and DC was very costly and required a in-person visit to the Health Department to obtain the license in the timeframe I needed it. Then, keeping up continuing education for each license, deciding which license to keep and which to let go is another layer.
How about misconceptions — are there any false beliefs or stereotypes about what it means to be a military spouse that you’ve encountered, especially as it relates to you professionally?
When I was questioned (by potential employers) about my status as a military spouse… it was very uncomfortable. I’ve had current coworkers comment back to me when telling them that I am moving: “You have no stability!” It’s always a stereotype that milspouses aren’t committed due to the fact that we move often. But, I can almost guarantee that you won’t find a more committed employee who goes above and beyond for the time they are with the company/organization. We may only be with you for a few years, but we will leave it better than we found it. It’s just what we do.
What has your company done to help with any of these challenges, and in what ways have you felt supported?
I have felt very supported by my company. They hired me, first off, with a competitive salary. They’ve afforded me opportunities to progress in my career. They offer a 401K that actually allows me to become vested before moving again. No other place has done that. They also offer a wonderful education package that would allow me to advance my career to the next level. My manager continues to see potential in me and give me more opportunities despite knowing that I am moving again in the next year. She maximizes what she sees in me and I am grateful for that type of trust and opportunity.
Do you believe your experience as a military spouse has provided you with any unique perspectives or talents that aid you professionally today?
My goodness, YES! My experience of living overseas right out of nursing school did. Was I bitter, resentful, angry? Sure, I was! But having to navigate a foreign country to take my licensure exam gave me a tenacity I never knew I had. And then, knowing I wouldn’t get the job I became a nurse to do because we didn’t have a hospital on our base made me more of the above-mentioned emotions. I had to volunteer for a year before getting a job on the base due to a lack of civilian positions, but that job opened my capacities so much as a nurse. I learned so much from working with the military physicians, flight surgeons and corpsman. It broadened my knowledge base and skill set.
Living in a foreign country gave me such a unique perspective and appreciation of my patients back stateside who aren’t from the U.S. and don’t speak English. Having had experiences with the host nation medical services, I learned that there are different ways of practicing medicine. It doesn’t necessarily make them wrong, just different. But, I also got firsthand experience about cultural competence and how scary it can be being a patient in a hospital that practices very differently than what you are used to and, oh by the way, they don’t speak your language. It has had a profound effect on how I approach my patients now who aren’t native to our system or language.
It has also given me a love for all kinds of people from all types of backgrounds. I am fascinated by the stories of what makes my patients who they are. It has given me a strength and tenacity to carry some very heavy burdens and to meet my patients were there are in an effort to best meet their needs.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
Becoming a nurse, period. I am a second career nurse and chose this route after delivering my first child 7 weeks premature. It was a pivotal moment in my life where I physically stopped in my tracks and was turned in the opposite direction. I have a passion for sick babies and their mamas (and dads) because I’ve been that mom on the other side of the bed. I know how scary the NICU world can be and how leaving the hospital goes against every instinct you have as a mom and rips at the fiber of your being. Premature birth is something no one prepares for — we all tend to skip that chapter of the pregnancy books. I consider it my life’s calling to come alongside these families and help them through the scariest days of their lives.
What about outside of work — how do you most enjoy spending your time?
I love to read, scrapbook, travel and do activities with my family. But, work keeps me busy and often exhausted! Nurse life!
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women, and especially other military spouses, who are looking for jobs right now?
Find your passion and own it! Be proud of who you are and go in with confidence. You aren’t just a military spouse. You are a rockstar nurse, teacher, therapist, attorney, real estate agent… you fill in your career. Be flexible. You may not get the position you most want in the area you want, but there will be something for you. And besides, it may just broaden and stretch you as a person. Consider the commute! I commute almost an hour and it stinks, but it has given me a great opportunity. Don’t just brush a place off because it’s farther away. And lastly, be persistent! Call the recruiters and find out what they are looking for. Network! I got my job because I posted in a local group of military spouses. Just so happens, one was a nurse and got my resume into the right hands. You got this!