More schools of nursing are recognizing the value veterans can bring to the profession and are gearing nursing programs – particularly online studies – toward this group. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration awarded grants to nine schools of nursing specifically to recruit and train veterans. Other schools of nursing have created their own programs.
University of Texas Arlington College of Nursing and Health Innovation admitted its first group of veterans in 2013 to its grant-funded veterans BSN fully online program, said program coordinator Jeanean Boyd, MSN, RN.
“The grant challenged us to figure out a creative way of transitioning veterans who have previous healthcare specialist training into a nursing program,” she said.
UTA’s online VBSN courses deliver the same content as the school’s on-campus classes. Clinicals take place primarily in veterans hospitals under fully qualified clinical faculty.
“Many of the faculty are veterans themselves,” said Boyd, who is a former Navy nurse. “We try to place students with faculty who know what it’s like to be a vet.”
Unlike UTA’s other BSN program, VBSN students study year-round in 14-week terms, so the program is completed more quickly. Some courses have been adapted. Boyd said the college wants to value the experience veterans have. For example, in the first nursing course, faculty assesses veterans’ skills before starting clinicals. In the first two weeks – instead of for an entire semester – they demonstrate previously learned skills and spend time in the learning lab.
Skill remediation then takes place as needed. Boyd said once veterans begin in the clinical setting and are assigned to patient care, they typically need a lot help with role transition. Faculty uses small-group discussion and case studies to lead students from a task-oriented work style to making clinical nursing judgments and seeing patient outcomes.
At the University of Southern Indiana, veterans are welcomed into the fully online BSN completion and MSN programs.
“The flexibility of our program is what attracts veterans,” Dean Ann White, PhD, RN, NE-BC, said. “While still in the military, if veterans are assigned to a new location, we can follow them.”
She said that the university assesses each veteran’s previous coursework and experience individually.
“We recognize that certain courses that they would have are met by virtue of being in the military,” White said.
When a veteran or dependent has a need for anything from education and financial assistance to behavioral health, Joel Matherly, manager of USI’s Veteran, Military, and Family Resource Center, said the resource center can assist them in finding that resource in their geographic area.
“Because the online programs are available from anywhere there is access to the Internet, the veteran can continue to access the courses regardless of their physical location,” Matherly said. “This eases the challenges faced when there are reassignments or changes in deployment status.”
USI also has adjusted its program to meet veterans’ specific needs, such as providing preceptors at clinical sites.
Students with Texas residency are eligible for the eLine Military Program at Texas A&M University. Courses are available entirely online, and a laptop is provided.
“Our initial eLine military grant was charged with developing a national model to translate military medical training and experience into academic credit,” said Mary Jane Hamilton, PhD, RN, dean and professor in Texas A&M’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences in Corpus Christi, “thus streamlining the completion of a BSN with RN licensure in the most efficient means possible.”
The eLine military program uses an individualized prior learning assessment to award the maximum amount of credit from military service.
“The ability to award academic credit at the competency level greatly exceeds the common practice of only awarding course for course credit from a military transcript evaluation,” said Jason E. Saladiner, EdD, director of innovative programs at the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.
Saladiner said veterans are attracted to this model since it awards credit for service, and the online experience is very engaging. To be eligible for the program, applicants must be a current resident of Texas and either a veteran, reservist, or active duty service member with previous military medical training and experience. Saladiner said the eLine program has students from all over Texas and overseas.
Veterans receive extra support through a case worker who ensures the veteran has the guidance and connection to any service, such as disability and counseling services, needed from initial contact through job placement.
The results of the veterans’ online programs is rewarding, Boyd said.
“We saw that they have a camaraderie and esprit de corps, they stick together no matter what,” Boyd said.