In 2019, Air Force veteran and registered nurse Patricia Scott-Cook first learned about the Veterans Homes of California-Barstow, near her home 30 minutes away in Silver Lakes. She quickly applied to work there, soon hired on, and is among the 1,000-plus nursing staff members throughout CalVet’s eight Veterans Homes of California.
The same can be said for Marine veteran Miguel Quiles, who signed on as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) at the Veterans Home of California-Ventura in 2018.
They are among the veterans and nurses who consider it their honor and duty to care for other veterans in CalVet’s Homes, and in turn we honor them as National Nurses Week (May 6-12) kicks off today.
The daughter of an Air Force veteran, Scott-Cook was born in Florida when her father served at Patrick Air Force Base. The family moved to California when he was transferred to Vandenberg Air Force Base. She followed dad’s lead, joining the Air Force shortly after graduating from high school in 1979. She trained to be a paramedic and firefighter. She spent three years at Royal Air Force Lakenheath in England before returning to Vandenberg where she was discharged in 1982.
Scott-Cook used her GI Bill benefits to study nursing while she worked as a firefighter and paramedic. At one point, she asked to enter the firefighter civilian academy simply to refresh her skills, and finished fourth in her class.
“I passed the agility test (with) no problem,” she said. “Others had to do it multiple times. It takes skill to learn how to throw a ladder.”
Nursing requires a different skill set, but the same determination. She went to Victor Valley College, where she earned her LVN certification in 2001, and then to Fresno City College in 2007 to become an RN.
The mission of CalVet’s Veterans Homes meshed with her training and love for caring for people, which drew her to the Barstow Home three years ago.
“I enjoy taking care of the veterans,” Scott-Cook said. “It feels like I am giving back. I come from a military family, with my father and grandfather retiring after 25 years of service in the Air Force, so (I) am very comfortable talking with and caring for the veterans in the Barstow Home.”
A big part of nursing, she said, goes well beyond medicine and into the soul. “I became close to some of the residents who were lonely and appreciated someone who had the time to sit and listen to them,” Scott-Cook said. “They express a connection of trust when they find out I, too, am a veteran.”
Miguel Quiles, meanwhile, deployed to Iraq in 2003, leaving the Marine Corps a year later. He went to college, worked various jobs while looking for his career calling, and found it after taking an assessment exam.
“It showed my interests were in patient care,” he said.
While others in his LVN program had some medical background, Quiles said he knew only what first aid he had acquired as a Marine.
“I had no medical experience,” he said, “but I did have discipline. I knew that if I’m going to pass this, I’ve got to have discipline. I did every bit of my homework. I didn’t miss any classes.”
Quiles completed his LVN program in 2016. He began volunteering in the gym at the Veterans Home of California-Ventura, and was so impressed with the Home that he applied to work there. He joined the Ventura Home staff in 2018 and found his bliss: being a veteran caring for veterans.
“I was thinking, ‘Wow! Veterans are getting treated like this,’” Quiles said. “This is where I want to be. I’m still on a team. I’m able to serve with vets. The (vets) here are able to trust me. They go to me. They know if I say I’m going to do something, that I’m going to take care of it “Veterans belong here,” Quiles said. “It feels like home. It means a lot.”
Like Scott-Cook and other nurses who are also veterans, he cares for those who served as well.
It’s these nurses’ way of thanking their veteran brethren.
Nurses Day and Nurses Week are our way of thanking them.