College of Nursing Joins Forces with the First Lady and Dr. Biden to support Veterans and Military Families

College of Nursing Joins Forces with the First Lady and Dr. Biden to support Veterans and Military Families

Apr 13, 2012 8:27 AM

Salt Lake City – In a broad, coordinated effort, more than 150 state and national nursing organizations and over 500 nursing schools, including the University of Utah College of Nursing, have joined First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden in committing to further educate our nation’s 3 million nurses so they are prepared to meet the unique health needs of U.S. service members, veterans, and their families. Led by the American Nurses Association, American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the National League for Nursing, in coordination with the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, nursing organizations and schools have committed to educating current and future nurses on how to recognize and care for veterans impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, 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 often 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 First Lady Michelle 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,” said Dr. Jill Biden. “This commitment is essential to ensuring our returning service men and women receive the care they deserve.”

Enhancing Veterans Health Care Through Nursing Education

One of only 20 nursing deans nationwide invited to attend the April 11 campaign event with the First Lady, U of U College of Nursing Dean Dr. Maureen R. Keefe says the College of Nursing’s endorsement of the pledge builds on its long-standing commitment to prepare nurses to care for military service members, Veterans, and their families. “Five years ago the University of Utah College of Nursing became one of the first nursing programs in the country to launch a VA Nursing Academy, in partnership with the Salt Lake VA Medical Center, to recruit VA nurses into our programs and collaborate to improve practice, research and education surrounding military culture and combat-related conditions,” said Dr. Keefe. “In joining forces with the First Lady and Dr. Biden, we take another step forward with a pledge to further integrate throughout our programs core concepts for assessing the unique needs of military families and greater enhancing their overall well-being.”

The invisible wounds of war, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), have impacted approximately 1 in 6 of our troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq – more than 300,000 veterans. And since 2000, more than 44,000 of those troops 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 in the country seek care outside of the VA system -- they usually visit their local hospital staffed by nurses and doctors in their communities. That’s why today’s announcement will be so significant for our troops and their families. 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. They can make a dramatic and positive impact on the long-term health of hundreds of thousands of veterans. And they are eager to understand the needs of those who have served, to recognize the warning signs of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, or suicide, and to know where to send them for help.

 Nursing School Commitment

 The University of Utah College of Nursing joins more than 500 nursing schools in all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico to make the commitment by 2014 to:

 Educate America’s future nurses to care for our nation's veterans, service members, and their families facing post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression, and other clinical issues;

  • Enrich nursing education to ensure that current and future nurses are trained in the unique clinical challenges and best practices associated with caring for military service members, veterans, and their families;
  • Integrate content that addresses the unique health and wellness challenges of our nation’s service members, veterans, and their families into nursing curricula;
  • Share teaching resources and applying best practices in the care of service members, veterans, and their families;
  • Grow the body of knowledge leading to improvements in health care and wellness for our service members, veterans, and their families; and
  • Join with others to further strengthen the supportive community of nurses, institutions, and healthcare providers dedicated to improving the health of service members, veterans, and their families.

 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. 

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