One in every six, or about 300,000, of the troops returning from Iraq or Afghanistan may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, according to national statistics.
Due to these alarming statistics, a pledge was announced April 11 by first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, Vice President Joe Biden’s wife. The pledge, by the nation’s nursing community, is aimed to better understand the health needs of troops, veterans and their families.
The campaign is being 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.
The initiative’s purpose is to better educate nurses and future nurses on how to more effectively deal with and care for veterans affected by post-traumatic stress disorder. This includes traumatic brain injury, depression and other combat-related issues in the ways appropriate to each nurse’s practice setting.
Obama and Biden are the most recognized faces behind the pledge. Obama said in a prepared statement, “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.”
Biden also commented on the decision to turn to nurses for the pledge.
“Nurses are at the center of providing life-saving 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 Biden. “This commitment is essential to ensuring our returning servicemen and women receive the care they deserve.”
Cindy Smith Greenberg, a professor and director of Cal State Fullerton’s School of Nursing, said the faculty in the nursing program work hard for their students.
“We are committed (to) preparing students to use (the) best practices in providing care to veterans and their families who may have unique care needs,” said Greenberg.
Rebecca Otten, Ph.D., is the coordinator of the pre-licensure programs and a content expert in veterans for the CSUF nursing program.
She said part of their mission is to serve the community, and as a way of living this mission, they are committed to prepare students to give excellent care to those in the community. With this initiative there is a focus on veterans and their families.
The School of Nursing is committed to prepare nurses at all levels to recognize veteran health needs and deliver the care they need.
“During a recent mental health clinical (trial), two Vietnam War veterans discussed the impact of PTSD, alcoholism, social isolation and other life challenges with our pre-licensure students,” Otten said. “Hearing the story is an important way for the students to gain first-hand information and explore nursing care interventions.”
Otten said she will also work closely with other departments to investigate the needs of student veterans and explore practical steps in helping them succeed and graduate.
“Although TBI, PTSD, major depression and amputations are distinct post-combat health outcomes, they cause overlapping long-term, possibly lifelong, effects on veterans lives,” Otten added. “Giving our students clinical experiences and information on caring for these veterans with multiple health challenges is part of our commitment with this initiative.”
Barbara Doyer, BSN, MS and RN, is the Skills Lab coordinator in the Pre-Licensure Program for CSUF’s nursing school.
“What my role would be is to do simulation activities here, so that it would geared toward better answers, and the things that they are facing as they return back into civilian life,” said Doyer.
Nancy Salinas, a senior in the CSUF nursing program, said this is a great topic to be discussing.
“There are a lot veterans, both older and younger veterans, and nursing is partnering with veterans administration to better understand how to better provide nursing services,” said Salinas. “I think it’s really good because it will enhance the quality of care we can provide for our veterans and still meet their needs.”
One of the major objectives is to increase awareness about the signs and symptoms of the salient mental health issues impacting veterans, Otten said.