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USF receives grant to build program for combat nurses

Active duty combat nurses are often asked to perform medical procedures in some of the most stressful environments.

Now, after a $1.25 million grant recently awarded to the USF College of Nursing by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, veterans will be rewarded for their training and time spent as combat nurses with a new Bachelor of Science degree program in Nursing.

The program, named the Creating Access to Registered Nurse Education for Veterans (V-CARE), will award veteran who have basic training 19 credits upon entering the new degree pathway.

Rita D’Aoust, the project director and associate dean of academic affairs, said the program will offer students an “education ladder” where their experiences and training will be valued.

“These specific veterans have skills that will be essential in the workforce for registered nurses,” D’Aoust said. “What we want to do is acknowledge those skills and training that they have and apply to their education.”

The program will also work to make the reintegration of veterans back into the civilian workforce easier.

“If you are a special ops medic on mission there is no field surgeon,” she said. “They’ll be doing that. Then they come back and all they can do (without being a registered nurse) is give someone a bath. That’s not what they want to do.”

Larry Braue, director the Office of Veterans Services, said many veterans, especially veteran medics looking to enter the nursing career, face many obstacles including little “textbook experience” and a lack of university training.

“Many of these veterans didn’t go to school or only have a few semesters at community college under their belts, which make it really hard for them to succeed in a nursing program,” he said. “Their obstacles are much larger than students who came to USF right out of high school as pre-nursing majors and kept a high GPA throughout.”

Braue said the nursing program is one of the most difficult routes for many veterans he works with. He hopes that awarding these students for their experiences in the military will allow for an easier path toward a career and reintegration.

“Hopefully with consideration to their experience, we will see more veterans being nurses back at home,” he said.

The grant was dispersed to nine universities throughout the country, USF’s award being the largest.

Florida could see a shortage of as many as 130,000 nurses by 2030, one of the largest shortages of registered nurses in the Eastern U.S.

“Starting this year, we are going to start seeing the shortage that already exists causing issues,” D’Aoust said. “Hopefully programs like V-CARE will help alleviate this problem.”

The college expects to begin the program in fall 2014 with an initial enrollment of 12 to 24 students. Over the four-year dispersement of the grant, the college hopes to enroll 120 veterans in the program.

D’Aoust said, based on the response from veteran students, it is possible that the program can enroll even more individuals than they expect.

“I don’t want people thinking ‘Oh, they are only taking 12 to 24 people,’” she said. “Anything beyond that would be great, but we won’t know until we see a response from students and from President Genshaft.”

V-CARE is a new pathway program, but builds on the curriculum laid out by the existing nursing track. The curriculum for the V-CARE program will come up for approval by the University Undergraduate Council on Oct. 28.