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Psychiatrist Careers – Working For the VA Part 8

In our continuing VA series we will be exploring the occupation of psychiatry (GP-0602). Psychiatry is a specialized field that helps our veterans who have often served multiple tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Many veterans experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and require the help and care that only a psychiatrist can provide.

We will be interviewing a psychiatrist from a residential treatment center at the Des Moines VA campus.

Veterans Affairs Central Iowa Health Care System

The Veterans Affairs Central Iowa Health Care System is a general medical and surgical hospital in Des Moines, IA with 255 beds. It is also accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Survey data for the latest year available shows that 11,697 patients visited the hospital’s emergency room. The hospital had a total of 2,895 admissions. Its physicians performed 500 inpatient and 2,100 outpatient surgeries.

Q&A with Dr. Kelly Weiss-Krep

Dr. Kelly Weiss-Kreps is a Doctor of Osteopathy, Psychiatrist at the Des Moines, Iowa Hospital.


Dr. Kelly Weiss-Kreps
Dr. Kelly Weiss-Kreps

What is your specialty as a Psychiatrist?

I serve as a domiciliary psychiatrist – providing psychiatric care.  Our team works with Veterans that have PTSD, are homeless, fresh out of prison, substance treatment issues or in some way, life has unraveled.  Many feel like they have hit rock bottom. I get to work with a highly skilled group of professionals to help our Veteran get stabilized. It is really amazing to watch a Veteran blossom and regain their self-confidence with learning cognitive behavior therapy, getting a job and a securing a place to live.

I completed a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry, have trained as a death investigator and have a special interest in family trauma.  I am starting additional training in treating chronic pain.

In residency we did therapy in a one-way mirror setting with a bug in our ear, it was a great opportunity.  My training in therapy has been most useful and tremendously rewarding.

Why did you become a Psychiatrist?

Since very young, I have sought out opportunities to hear the story of people’s lives and to understand behaviors.

Growing up in a rural area population 12 in South Dakota and attending a two-room country school, we rarely went to the doctor, much less encountered psychiatrists.  However, I enjoyed Sherlock Holmes and Marcus Welby, MD and was fascinated by problem solving and learning how the mind works.

When I worked in Japan, two young colleagues had their first psychotic episodes and I got to help out and felt pretty helpless.  Seeing the devastation of untreated mental illness made me want to learn more.

In residency I took extra rotations working with the homeless, prison, Native American, sex offenders, and residential treatment center populations. I got to witness their complicated issues and their resilience. Some of my attendings were absolutely brilliant and would ask what I called golden questions that could draw out incredible insights with precision like a surgeon’s scalpel

What is the most rewarding part of your job as a Psychiatrist?

I feel like I won the lottery by having such great patients – Veterans are very appreciative and lots of fun to work with.   They continue to be my best teachers.

What is the most demanding or challenging part of being a Psychiatrist?

The (student loan) debt likely over $250,000 and the toll on the family.

Would you recommend being a Psychiatrist as a good career path?

Absolutely. I love my working with my patients. Competition can be fierce – the path is more of a marathon than a race.  Going to medical school and residency is a long and very expensive experience.

I would highly recommend spending time in all sorts of fields before making a decision. Try to shadow and interview people in all sorts of occupations that you think may interest you. I worked in investment banking, politics and overseas, so no matter what your background is, it can enrich what you bring to your patients.

At the end of the day, it is a tremendous privilege to have patients give you such trust. Psychiatry is an art and a science.  Watching patients get better is a great gift that unfolds sometimes because of a drug and sometimes without a drug.  Often being kind and a good listener is like the balm of Gilead.  I believe the most powerful Walgreen’s is between their ears, my role is to ask good questions, listen, and show them I care.

Psychiatrist (GP-0602)

Education: Must be a U.S. citizen to apply.

Degree: Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathy from a school in the United States or Canada approved by a recognized accrediting body in the year of the applicant’s graduation.

Licensure/Certification: Candidates must have a permanent, full, and unrestricted license to practice medicine in a State, District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or a territory of the United States.

Experience Required: The required Psychiatry experience/training includes skills such as, but not limited to, a wide range of extremely difficult and responsible dealings with inpatient service, partial hospitalization service, intensive outpatient services, routine outpatient services, consultation liaison services and must be well versed to transition to any area as required.


  • This specialty examines, diagnoses, treats diseases affecting mental health including the brain, nervous system, substance abuse of drugs or chemicals and personality disturbances.
  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in treating mental illness using the biomedical approach to mental disorders, including psychotherapies.
  • A psychiatrist specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental, additive, and emotional disorders such as schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance-related disorders, sexual and gender identity disorders, and adjustment disorders.
  • A psychiatrist is able to understand the biologic, psychological, and social components of illness, and therefore is uniquely prepared to treat the whole person.
  • A psychiatrist is qualified to order diagnostic laboratory tests and to prescribe medications, evaluate, and treat psychological and interpersonal problems, and to intervene with families who are coping with stress, crises, and other problems in living.

In part 9 will we be discussing the psychologist (GS-0180) job occupation and they are instrumental in helping our veterans.


  • Michele Hammonds, Communications Specialist, US Department of Veterans Affairs, VHA Office of Public Communications (10B2B)
  • Photos were provided by the residential treatment center at the Des Moines VA campus.

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About The Author

A Pennsylvania native, Betty Boyd moved to the Tennessee Valley in 1994. She retired in early 2012 after 30 years of Government service. Boyd was an Acquisition Manager/IT Manager/ Project Manager during her 30-year career. Boyd also served as a supervisor and team leader during her career. In 2012 Boyd founded a consulting firm, Boyd Consulting Services, which offers writing services to clients and companies. For more information about these writing services see the following website: http://www.BettyBoydWriting.com/. Betty attended Athens State University, Athens, AL and received a B.B.A. in Management of Technology in 2000. She received her Masters of Science degree from Syracuse University with a concentration in Information Management in 2007. Boyd is a certified Level III contracting professional and she received a Masters level certificate in Project Management from the National Defense University in 2008.