Confessions Of A VA Nurse: Mending More Crushed Spirits Than Broken Bones

VA nurse TJ Wilcox Olson
VA nurse TJ Wilcox Olson



For years, a young woman in the Black Hills of South Dakota would sit by the phone from midnight to noon. Around once a week, she'd get a call that would make her heart race. It was a veteran, so distraught, so panicked, so depressed, that the young woman thought he might kill himself.

TJ Wilcox-Olson, 33, (pictured above) worked in patient mental health for 3½ years in the VA Black Hills Health Care System, which serves veterans across a huge swath of the rural West, including parts of Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana. Now, she's the patient safety manager, responsible for making sure patients don't harm one another, or themselves. She also serves on the board of the Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs.