The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Nursing – along with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden – announced a commitment April 11 to serve and support veterans and military families.
In the broad, coordinated effort, more than 150 state and national nursing organizations and more than 500 other nursing schools including UW Oshkosh’s College of Nursing 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.
“Holistic care with a body, mind and spirit perspective is the hallmark of professional nursing practice. Returning veterans need and deserve the in-depth understanding of the wounds they carry with them after international tours of duty,” said Rosemary Smith, dean of the College of Nursing. “Faculty members in the College of Nursing include a focus on the varied needs of veterans and their families into courses throughout the undergraduate and graduate curriculum.”
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.”
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.
“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 said. “This commitment is essential to ensuring our returning service men and women receive the care they deserve.”
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 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.