First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, NOVA professor, recently announced the commitment of nurses across the country who are eager to serve veterans and military families. In a broad, coordinated effort, more than 150 state and national nursing organizations and more than 500 schools of nursing, including NOVA, have committed to further educate the nation’s three million nurses to prepare them to meet the unique needs of service members, veterans and their families. Led by the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the National League for Nursing; and in coordination with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, nursing organizations and schools have committed to educate current and future nurses on how to recognize and care for veterans affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), depression and other combat-related issues, in ways appropriate to each nurse’s practice setting.
“Whether we’re in a hospital, a doctor’s office or a community health center, nurses are the first people we see when we walk through the door. Because of their expertise, they are trusted to be the frontline of America’s health care system,” said Obama. “That’s why Jill and I knew we could turn to America’s nurses and nursing students to help our veterans and military families get the world-class care that they’ve earned. It’s clear from today’s announcement that the nursing community is well on its way to serving our men and women in uniform and their families.”
“Nurses are at the center of providing lifesaving care in communities across the country and their reach is particularly important because our veterans don’t always seek care through the VA system,” Biden added. “This commitment is essential to ensuring our returning service men and women receive the care they deserve.”
PTSD and TBI have impacted nearly one in six U.S. troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, more than 300,000 veterans. Since 2000, more than 44,000 have suffered at least a moderate-grade traumatic brain injury.
Veterans seeking care within the Veterans Affairs (VA) health system are often treated by health care professionals who have received extensive training in mental health issues. But the majority of veterans seek care outside of the VA system, usually through their local hospital, which is staffed by nurses and doctors in their own communities. That is why this announcement is so significant. America’s nurses are trusted partners in providing lifesaving and life-sustaining care in nearly every community and every setting where health care is delivered. Nurses can make a dramatic and positive impact on the long-term health of hundreds of thousands of veterans. They are eager to understand the needs of those who have served, to recognize the warning signs of PTSD, depression, or suicide, and to know where to send them for help.
Nursing leaders have also committed to disseminating effective models for care and to sharing the most up-to-date information on these conditions across academic and practice settings. By working to expand the body of clinical knowledge in this arena and by partnering with other health care providers and institutions, nursing leaders across the country will continue to advance high quality treatment for these conditions in every community.
Each of the nursing organizations and more than 500 nursing schools have committed to making specific changes or additions by 2014 to incorporate this information into their curricula and practice.
Dr. Ann McGowan, assistant dean of nursing at the MEC and the only community college representative besides Biden who was in attendance at the press conference, said, “This forum provides a powerful collaboration among nursing leaders to promote a commitment to healthcare services and education for veterans and their families.”