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Veteran-to-nurse programs backed by RWJF

Nurse educators are launching innovative programs around the country to help veterans become nurses. These programs address problems such as a nurse shortage that undermines the healthcare of civilians and veterans and inadequate support for veterans attempting to rejoin the workforce, according to a November article on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation website.

A nurse shortage, according to the article, “threatens to undermine health and healthcare,” a problem that can become worse over time because of circumstances such as an aging nation and an increase in the number of people living with chronic conditions. “Access to care is especially critical for the nation’s more than 20 million veterans, who have unique healthcare needs such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and homelessness, and who have faced long, and highly publicized, waits for healthcare,” according to the article.

Programs that support veterans who want to become nurses also offer opportunities for veterans to reintegrate into the workforce and their communities. According to the article, the national unemployment rate among veterans who had joined the military after Sept. 11, 2001, was 9% in 2013, higher than the civilian unemployment rate.

Veterans who want to become nurses cannot get academic credit for the healthcare experiences they had in the military. “Independent duty corpsmen are prepared to administer complex medications and to perform all kinds of invasive procedures, including amputation of limbs and emergency appendectomies,” Gloria McNeal, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN, an alumna of the RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows program and dean of the School of Health and Human Services at National University in San Diego, said in the article. “They are medical professionals on the field in combat areas. But when they leave the military, they lack the credentials to move into nursing positions.”

To address these issues, the Health Resources and Services Administration provided funding for select nursing schools to help veterans earn bachelor’s degrees in nursing. The schools award academic credit to veterans for their military experience in healthcare and nursing and offer a variety of programs, including accelerated tracks for veterans who have completed pre-nursing programs or who have healthcare experience. Participants also receive career counseling and assistance preparing for nurse licensing examinations. “They certainly understand combat and military culture, and they know what it takes to heal from an injury as a result of that,” McNeal said.

Because the veteran population is more diverse than the nursing workforce, VBSN programs also help diversify the nursing workforce, Lori Escallier, PhD, RN, CPNP, a professor of nursing and an associate dean at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, said in the article. According to the article, the VA has been working to address “systemic access problems,” for veterans. “Our top priority has been getting appointments for veterans who have been waiting too long to see their providers,” Raymond Phillips, PhD, MS, RN, an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellow and chief nurse for inpatient nursing and nursing research at the VA Northern California Health Care System, said in the article. “We have contacted 311,000 veterans to get them off wait lists and into clinics, and we have decreased the number of veterans on our electronic wait list by nearly 35,000. We have also made more than 1.5 million referrals for veterans to receive care in the private sector.”

To do that, the VA has used a variety of techniques, including adding evening and weekend hours at clinics, hiring more staff, deploying mobile medical units and offering more care in the community, Phillips added.

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By | 2014-11-25T00:00:00-05:00 November 25th, 2014|Categories: National|0 Comments

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