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Serving Those Who Serve: USD Nursing to Support White House Efforts for Veterans

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The White House is joining forces with nurses to serve the nation’s veterans and USD’s Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science will be part of the effort.

On April 11, USD School of Nursing Dean Sally B. Hardin was one of 20 deans from around the country, along with representatives of leading nursing organizations, to join First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the vice president’s wife, in launching the national effort at the University of Pennsylvania.

According to the White House, more than 150 state and national nursing organizations and more than 500 nursing schools have committed to further educate the nation’s three million nurses so they are prepared to meet the unique health needs of service members, veterans and their families. Nursing organizations and schools, in coordination with the departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense 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.

“Whether we’re in a hospital, a doctor’s office or a community center, nurses are often the first people we see when we walk through the door,” Obama said in Philadelphia. “Because of their expertise, they are trusted to be the front line of American’s health care system. “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 they’ve earned.”

Hardin said USD’s efforts will focus on three significant areas. The nursing school has established the first psychiatric nursing advanced practice program in southern California specializing in treating soldiers with PTSD. The program currently has 25 students and Hardin would like to see the number rise to 35 or 40 in the next year or two.

The Jonas School Center for Nursing Excellence, based in New York, has established a program to improve the health of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars by supporting doctoral nursing candidates who are committed to advancing veterans’ health care in areas from patient care to policy and administration. The first PhD/DNP cohort includes five USD students and USD is applying for support for more doctoral students. USD will also be establishing a special laboratory to focus on research of brain injuries, PTSD and the like.

Hardin explained that USD already has a number of doctoral students researching these issues. One researcher found that civilian health care providers were misdiagnosing veterans suffering from Blast Induced Neurotrauma (BINT) and its potentially disabling symptoms. Another has found that veterans are more likely to suffer from emergence delirium, a state of agitation and violent physical and verbal behaviors occurring in patients following general anesthesia.

USD’s nursing school has a “very close relationship” with the military in San Diego, Hardin noted. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of its students are active or retired military, she said. Many have been placed in charge of “entire units” to care for veterans suffering from combat injuries such as amputations or traumatic brain injuries.

Hardin said she’s pleased that the White House’s Joining Forces campaign is focusing on nurses. Nurses often “serve behind the scenes,” she said and “it was gratifying to have the White House spotlighting nursing.” She also enjoyed having the chance to shake hands with the first lady, who like herself, is from Chicago. Both the first lady and Jill Biden were very gracious and welcoming, she said. “I felt like I was with neighbors” from back in Chicago.

– Liz Harman

Photos courtesy of  University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and I. George Bilyk

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