Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center
Spokane VA Anesthetist is a Shining Example
VA Nurse Anesthetist John Givens has just earned a promotion, 20-plus years in the making. “I have the best job in Spokane,” says the husband and father of two, who chose to forfeit the higher salary he could be earning in the private sector, to proudly serve military Veterans enrolled in the nation’s VA health care system.
As a CRNA, John Givens has become a key member of the medical surgical team at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center since 2010. “John is always looking to improve efficiencies and the Veterans’ experience. Everybody loves his enthusiasm, from leadership on down to the housekeepers who keep the operating rooms sterile and functional,” said Dr. Wayne Gerard, Chief of Surgery. To Givens, the accolades and support are the result of a persistent drive to ensure his faith guides success for himself and others. In December, Givens stood before family, close friends, and medical center leadership as his wife Deb pinned on his Navy Captain insignia during a reception that followed the reaffirmation of his Military Officer’s oath and promotion to Captain in the U.S. Navy Reserves.
His journey has been long, including completing his first military deployment to war-torn Afghanistan in 2013. He volunteered for that assignment, not realizing at the time, how much the experience of war, including operating on enemy combatants and innocent child victims of war, would test his emotions. “I am so thankful to God who opened up this door for me and my family [of coworkers] at the VA,” explained Givens. “This personal achievement [promotion to Captain] is not a destination, but rather a responsibility given to me to invest in others,” he said.
By volunteering to go to war, Givens’ story caught the attention of VA’s national magazine “VAnguard” in its September/October 2012 edition. One reader, a private sector health care physician in Baltimore, MD was so inspired by John, he reportedly joined the reserves to commit to helping America’s military men and women receive the best health care possible – like John. Because he’s a humble man who professes all the glory to his strong faith, Givens doesn’t boast about achieving the rank of Captain as a Navy Reservist. “For him to do it as a member of the Nursing Corps in the Reserves is a huge accomplishment,” said former Navy Commander Dr. Quinn Bastian, currently a VA Psychologist and Chief of Behavioral Health Service at MGVAMC. Dr. Bastian says Givens is one of only 71 Captains among more than 65,000 Navy Reservists.
Givens convictions aren’t new to those who truly know him. As a young boy growing up in Clarkston, WA, John volunteered at the local hospital, by painting and landscaping, and even stitching up patients when needed. “Yes, that’s right,” explained his father John, “I recall a time when a patient asked John if he was the same guy he saw outside mowing that morning, but was then stitching up an open wound later that day,” said the elder Givens. “My son is my hero. He didn’t grow up with a silver spoon and has surpassed me in so many ways and outgrown any expectation a Father could have for his son.”
John and his wife Deb raised two boys. The oldest Gil, graduated from the Naval Academy in 2014 and is currently seeking his flight wings as a naval aviator in Florida. Their youngest son, Thatcher, is a cadet at Annapolis, like his brother before him. “We are so lucky to have military Veterans, like John, who are willing to be employed at our VA Medical Center,” explained Jerry Anderson (USN Ret.) who performed the Officer’s Oath and is a member of the Naval Academy’s “Blue & Gold Officers” helping new cadets commit to the rigorous discipline and structure of becoming an officer in the U.S. Navy. Anderson and Givens have served together at the Academy training cadets. “John earned this on merit,” explained Anderson, a human resources specialist at MGVAMC. “Once he was able to take a hard assignment and served in Afghanistan, it enhanced his opportunity for promotion.
Both his service to the Navy and the VA are commendable and the promotion [ceremony] allowed me an opportunity to thank John for his service.” “John is exactly the type of health care professional we’re looking for at the VA,” explained Dr. Scott Nye, Chief of Staff, who with all of the medical center leadership team, is committed to finding talented physicians and nurses who look at the health care profession, “not for the money, but the ethical value and personal growth of fulfilling what America’s Veterans want and need through the VA.” Fellow CRNA Mel Waller met Givens on their first day assigned to Spokane’s VA Medical Center in 2010.
“We have a great group and John’s a strong part of it. He’s very honest and works at a high competency level in all facets of his job.” Co-worker Bob Bond at the VA jokes how John learned the mastery of running the “Fournier Gangrene Center of Excellence” since arriving at the VA.
Many in attendance at the ceremony say they believe Captain John Givens’ story is beneficial to others, simply because, “it shows how hard work, dedication, and service to others can make dreams come true,” explained his Mother Cathy.
After meeting his wife Deb at Washington State University, John went on to graduate from the University of Washington Medical School and later, Gonzaga University, earning his Graduate Degree in Anesthesia. Currently, Givens is pursuing his PhD in Executive Leadership and Communications at the Jesuit University that has since become nationally known. His goal is to someday teach at the university level.
As parents, he and Deb helped their boys become “Eagle Scouts.” John has served as an elder at Real Life Ministries and Genesis Prep Christian Academy in Post Falls, Idaho. He has also served his community by helping raise funds to rebuild the local ice-rink after it collapsed as a total loss under heavy snow during the winter of 1997-’98 in Northern Idaho.
In May of 2016, with just weeks before the race, John committed to another personal challenge, competing in a USA Ironman Triathlon in nearby Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. He and a fellow co-worker at the VA both completed the grueling race that includes a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike-ride, and a 26.2 mile run – all in under 17 hours! “John has always been driven, determined, loyal, committed, and extremely interested and compassionate in people,” explained Deb Givens. She freely shared advice for other spouses concerned about their Veteran’s anguish and troubles after returning from war. “Recognize it first, be flexible, and pray!” John Givens says his Wife is a tremendous blessing on his life and their family together. He also says, “taking care of Veterans is not simply a “job”, it is a ministry.
To those who are given much, much is expected,” said Givens. “I am striving to become a generous giver and that means sharing all ‘God has given to me’. That is my purpose, to use all that God has given me to motivate and support others in reaching their personal and professional goals.” Godspeed Captain John Givens… Godspeed to you and all those you serve in your community, in the military, and the Veterans at the VA.