UTHSC College and More Than 500 Nursing Schools Support the Joining Forces Campaign.
On April 11, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden announced a commitment from nurses across the country eager to serve veterans and military families as well as they have served us. In a broad, coordinated effort, more than 150 state and national nursing organizations including the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and more than 500 nursing schools have committed to further educate our nation’s 3 million nurses so they are prepared to meet the unique health needs of service members, veterans and their families.
Susan R. Jacob, PhD, RN, interim dean for the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) signed the pledge several weeks ago while in Washington, D.C.
“This initiative highlights the pivotal role and responsibility that the national nursing community has in caring for our veterans and their families,” Dr. Jacob stated. “Like so many other educational institutions in the nursing profession, we are proud to be a part of this major undertaking. We will not waiver in our commitment to serve the military community by educating high quality nursing professionals who are sensitive to and thoughtful about their specific needs.”
“We are grateful to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing for its commitment to leading a nationwide campaign by over 500 nursing schools who commit by 2014 to educating nursing students on how to care for military service members, veterans, and their families dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression, and other clinical issues,” said CAPT C.B. Cooper II, USN, Executive Director of Joining Forces. “Partnering schools will integrate into their curricula teaching the unique health challenges, as well as best practices, associated with caring for this distinct patient population.”
“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
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. 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 post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or suicide, and to know where to send them for help.
Nursing leaders also have 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.
AACN’s Commitment to Joining Forces
To support this national effort, AACN has created a new Web page dedicated to Joining Forces, which includes the nursing pledge, the list of participating nursing schools, and an online pledge mechanism. New schools wishing to join the campaign are encouraged to register online at http://www.aacn.nche.edu/joining-forces. New Resources will be added to this site in the coming weeks, including best practices related to veteran care, resource links, and campaign news.
In addition to leading the work to recruit more nursing schools to support the Joining Forces campaign, AACN is making veteran health a priority issue through 2014 and beyond. AACN is committed to working with the nation’s schools of nursing to promote curriculum integration, faculty development, and student clinical experiences focused on enhancing the care of veterans, service members, and their families. Building on its long history of raising curriculum standards and enhancing quality in nursing care, AACN will identify and showcase best practices in nursing education and disseminate information on curricular models to all schools of nursing through Webinars, conference programming, and an online Collaboration Community.
In honor of National Nurses Week (May 6-12, 2012), AACN is offering a free Webinar series to build on our work to support Joining Forces. Reflecting the theme of “Educating Future Nurses to Care for Veterans,” four individual Webinars are planned, including a showcase of the innovative work under way at several VA Nursing Academy sites related to veteran care and faculty development, a panel discussion on creative curriculum approaches to caring for veterans; an immersion into state programs addressing the unique mental/behavioral health needs of veterans; and a special session on meeting the palliative care needs of veterans, which outlines AACN’s work with the City of Hope on the groundbreaking ELNEC-For Veterans Initiative. These Webinars are free and open to nurse educators teaching at all levels. To register, see http://www.aacn.nche.edu/joining-forces/webinar-series.
“AACN is committed to galvanizing nursing schools throughout the nation to take action and support the Joining Forces campaign,” said AACN President Jane Kirschling. “Together with the larger health care community, nurse educators are encouraged to take decisive steps toward raising the quality of care available to our nation’s military and veterans in their important work to prepare future generations of nurses.”
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is the national voice for university and four-year college education programs in nursing. Representing more than 700 member schools of nursing at public and private institutions nationwide, AACN’s educational, research, governmental, advocacy, data collection, publications, and other programs work to establish quality standards for bachelor’s- and graduate-degree nursing education, assist deans and directors to implement those standards, influence the nursing profession to improve health care, and promote public support of baccalaureate and graduate nursing education, research, and practice. www.aacn.nche.edu.