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Helping Veterans Transition to Careers in Nursing

By Mary Wakefield

Many Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans received training as health care providers while they served in their deployments.  The Obama Administration is committed to helping these Veterans translate the health care skills gained during their enlistment into nursing jobs when they return home.

However, Veterans have found that their training in medic and certain other health care roles do not fully meet the standards of academic training for nursing programs.  As a result, Veterans have encountered difficulty gaining academic credit for their health care training while enlisted.

To bridge this gap, the Obama Administration plans to take several steps.  An award will be made to the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CONHS), which will allow the nursing school to work with key military leadership and training staff at the Medical Education and Training Command in San Antonio, Texas to identify strategies to align enlisted health care training and nursing academic credit.

The TAMUCC-COHNS has an existing federal grant to help residents of Texas who are members of the military–and Veterans with previous medical experience–become registered nurses through distance learning technologies.  In implementing this program, TAMUCC-COHNS has seen firsthand the obstacles that arise from the gap between enlisted health care training and academic training requirements.

The award will augment TAMUCC-COHNS current activities to allow it to work with the Medical Education and Training Command in San Antonio, Texas, which has recently been designated as the central site for all health care-related training for the Tri-Service (Army, Navy and Air Force).  The project will focus on opportunities to create replicable models for bridging the gap between enlisted training and academic coursework, improving the documentation of health care training, and working with other key stakeholders such as state licensure boards.

In addition, the Administration will give funding priority to nursing schools that offer pro-Veteran learning environments, recruit and support Veterans interested in pursuing nursing careers, and facilitate academic credit for enlisted health care training.  Grant programs are administered by the Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration and support RN and advanced degree nursing programs.

Nursing school applicants receive competitive scores on their applications, which determine the schools that will receive funding through these programs.  The Administration's action will give nursing schools with Veterans-friendly approaches additional points in the scoring of their applications.

These important steps will not only build health care career opportunities for veterans, but also help to expand the health workforce to meet the needs of the growing and aging population.

Mary Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N., is the administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). HRSA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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