Nursing school joins Veterans Affairs in partnership program to benefit nurses and veterans

ASU's College of Nursing & Health Innovation announced their new VA Nursing Academic Partnership program. The Pat Tillman Veterans Center in Tempe will also connect veteran students interested in a nursing degree with the opportunity to apply for the program. (Photo by Kelly Kleber)

ASU’s College of Nursing & Health Innovation announced its new VA Nursing Academic Partnership program. The Pat Tillman Veterans Center in Tempe will also connect veteran students interested in a nursing degree with the opportunity to apply for the program. (Photo by Kelly Kleber)

ASU received a grant for $4 million to benefit the College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

The Veterans Affairs Nursing Academic Partnership is a five-year program through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The $4 million fund will help provide additional faculty positions at ASU’s College of Nursing & Health Innovation and in the Phoenix Veteran Affairs Health Care System. The program is also set to increase ASU’s undergraduate nurses by 80 students.

Steven Borden, director of Veteran Services at the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, said past interactions between ASU and the VA contributed to the interest in this grant.

“The VA sees an increasing need for nurses and medical assistants in the VA system,” he said. “ASU has had a long-standing tradition of interaction and mutual support between the College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the local VA, so this just seemed like a natural fit to apply for this grant.”

Pre-nursing sophomore Roger Conant, who works at the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, said the conditions at some veteran medical facilities are not ideal and the VA is going to be in need of qualified nurses in the near future.

Conant said he has heard complaints from both patients and workers at VA facilities.

“If they’re employees, they’re overworked (and) they have too much to do; and if they’re patients, they wait forever to be seen, and a lot of the times, they feel like the care is sub par,” he said.

Conant said he believes the program is a step toward improving the VA health care system in Phoenix.

“The VA has taken a lot of steps to fix that, but I also think that the VA recognizes that this is a very important population,” he said. “This country cares about its veterans. There’s no doubt about that.”

Brenda Morris, associate dean of Academic Affairs at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, said this program is of particular importance to accommodate future health care needs.

“The Veterans Administration is one of the largest employers of registered nurses in the U.S.,” Morris said. “It’s very important for us as a college of nursing to ensure that we are preparing our graduates to meet the future health care needs of all populations, including the veteran population.”

Conant said the program is particularly different from others in offering the unique clinical experience of working with veterans and giving the students experience with dealing with a wide variety of war traumas and injuries.

“You do clinicals as a nursing student to get that hands on experience,” Conant said. “You’re going to see a lot of similar cases at the VA; you’re going to see a lot of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic brain injuries, amputations, wartime injuries.”

Conant said the nurses would be working with a diverse population in VA clinics and would see different cases of homeless veterans coming in and people with psychological issues. In addition, he said the nurses would get emergency room experience.

The Pat Tillman Veterans Center is also working with veteran students to provide those interested in the nursing field the opportunity to apply for this program.

Borden said that this program will be of particular interest among student veterans.

“It provides a connection for students to obtain their nursing degrees, pass the NCLEX and wind up going to work for the VA,” he said. “We have a number of veterans that I imagine would wind up coming into ASU looking for a program like that.”

The NCLEX is an examination for nursing students to earn their licenses in the U.S.

Borden said veterans will be interested in becoming a part of this program because of their desire to help fellow veterans.

Among the other universities receiving the grant were Emory University, Marquette University, New Mexico University, Oregon Health and Science University and the University of Minnesota.

Veterans and nursing students interested in this program should contact Amanda Burnes, assistant director of Student Services at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

Reach the reporter at jcushma1@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @jcushma1