The nation’s top nurse says Jacksonville University’s outreach to veterans in its Nursing program is a “beacon” other institutions can follow as the U.S. addresses health care professional shortages with more education opportunities for those with military backgrounds.
“You have small classrooms here, you’re veteran-friendly and you have faculty with military experience, which is no small thing,” Dr. Mary Wakefield, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), said during a visit to the JU College of Health Sciences. “I look to this university as a partner for us, and frankly as a beacon. We’re looking for best practices at places educating nurses extremely well, and learning from them so we can push that out to other universities and colleges.”
JU’s School of Nursing recently received an $870,000 grant from HRSA to provide support for veterans who choose to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Dr. Wakefield visited JU to see how the implementation of the grant is proceeding.
She also gave an inspiring message to Health Sciences faculty and students about their role as health care providers and in reaching out to veterans.
“Capitalizing on the skills and expertise of veterans is a very high priority for President Obama,” she told them. “That’s what caused us to put money into this program. It has been terrific working with the JU faculty, who were so successful in getting this grant. We are trying to give preference to institutions that are prioritizing veterans. You’ve got a great program here, and you will be bringing so much to our health care field.”
The grant to JU will enhance the recruitment, education, graduation, employment and retention of qualified veterans seeking BSNs. JU’s School of Nursing was one of only nine nursing schools nationally awarded the grant.
Once enrolled, veterans will receive assistance such as tutoring; career and stress management/resiliency training; focus and support group help; linkages with veteran service organizations and community health systems; and even Heartmath training, a biofeedback technique to help with reducing stress, promoting resilience and improving focus.
Dr. Wakefield praised JU for reaching out to veterans from day one with counseling and tutoring, and in creating a physical space – the recently dedicated Defenders’ Den student veterans study center in the Founders Building – where veterans “can acquire peer support and talk with folks with a shared experience.”
“You are building support under our veterans. Not just recruiting them, but also doing everything that I can see that can be done to support them. Some of the characteristics of this campus really speak to retention,” she said. “The Nursing program is steeped in an orientation toward the success of veterans, and clearly this is a university that overall broadly values meeting their needs.”
Dr. Christine Sapienza, acting dean of the JU College of Health Sciences, said Dr. Wakefield’s visit helped further strengthen the Nursing program’s connection with HRSA and its goals.
“As a practicing nurse, she understands our School of Nursing mission,” Dr. Sapienza said. “She will help us learn how to be the most efficient in our new educational VBSN program, and I believe was impressed by our faculty passion for veteran education.”
Associate Professor Lynnette Kennison, JU’s Veteran BSN Project Director and a retired Colonel from the Army National Guard, agreed.
“It was inspiring to have someone at one of the highest levels of a government agency reaching out to those it is helping through grant awards,” she said. “She let us know that HRSA hears our needs, and the needs of veterans with healthcare backgrounds or interests who are looking to transition into the field. This only inspires us more to keep doing the work.”
Jacksonville University supports three unique Veteran BSN educational tracks. Track 1, which is now active, is an on-campus pre-licensure BSN program. Track 2, which begins its first cohort in fall 2014, is an on-campus RN-BSN program. Track 3, which is also active, is an online RN-BSN program. Each track is accepting applications and is bolstered by veteran-specific resiliency training and academic support. Additionally, a full-time Veteran BSN Program Advisor, Dr. Sam Young, a retired U.S. Army Family Physician and combat veteran, will ensure personal support for each veteran student.
For information and to apply, contact Dr. Sam Young, Veterans BSN Program Advisor, School of Nursing, Jacksonville University, firstname.lastname@example.org, (904) 256-8911, or VBSNCohort@ju.edu.