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Camouflage to Scrubs

Veterans in Nursing

By: Holly Christy

There are careers whose popularity and demand rise and fall based on current events, political pressures, and technological advancements. And then there are those careers that have always been needed, and will continue to be in high-demand for the foreseeable future. Nursing is once such field. Nurses in today’s market are finding good salaries, personal fulfillment, and room for advancement. In fact, four of the “100 Best Jobs of 2017” according to U.S. News are nursing jobs. Add to the equation that the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates faster than average growth in the market for nurses (between 16 and 31 percent), and training for a career in nursing seems like a great investment.

Whether you’re on active-duty, a veteran, or a military dependent, if you’re interested in nursing you will find that there are plenty of degree programs to train you for every imaginable field of nursing, from Registered Nurse to Home Care Nurse to Nurse Practitioner. What follows are some featured schools and their nursing options.

American Sentinel University

“As an online university, American Sentinel University is a good choice for military students as they can study from any location around the world on flexible schedules,” says Elaine Foster, Dean of Nursing and Healthcare Programs at American Sentinel University. What’s more, American Sentinel has recently made healthcare-centered programs their primary focus. With more than 15 percent of its nursing program enrollments comprised of military and dependent students, this field of study offers a great transition credential for students departing the military.

American Sentinel has post-licensure nursing programs, including: RN to BSN, RN to BSN/MSN and MSN with five specializations (Case Management, Infection Prevention and Control, Nursing Education, Nursing Informatics, and Management and Organizational Leadership) and a DNP program with three specializations (Educational Leadership, Executive Leadership and Informatics Leadership). Healthcare management programs include MBA-Healthcare, Master of Business Intelligence and Analytics, and Master of Science Information Systems Management. The nursing and healthcare management programs are designed for nurses and healthcare administrators, managers, and IT personnel of all types who work full-time and want to advance their education for promotion and job mobility purposes.

Prospective students can expect coursework to include weekly discussions, assignments, projects and supplemental subject matter that assess competencies important to the current healthcare evolution in meeting new government regulations and the increased competition in providing better patient care at reduced cost. Foster adds, “Students have found that their military background contributes to their success at the University. Military students are motivated, organized and work hard to achieve their

goals.” She goes on to say, “… service members at some point will likely enter the civilian or government non-military healthcare arena making what they learn in our programs valued throughout their lifelong careers.”

With military scholarships, Tuition Assistance and GI Bill funding benefits, and transfer credits for military experience, American Sentinel University has been named a “Military Friendly School” for the tenth consecutive year. This distinction puts American Sentinel in the top twenty percent of colleges, universities and trade schools nationwide that do the most to embrace America’s military service members and veterans as students and to dedicate resources to ensure their success both in the classroom and after graduation.

Baker College

Lesley Morgan, Dean of the School of Nursing at Baker College, says “A rewarding aspect of a career in nursing is the positive impact we have on patients and their families. It’s also an exciting career with opportunities to grow professionally as technology and medical knowledge advance. A nurse is a caregiver and a problem-solver, someone who helps people in mind, body and spirit. Compassion is critical, but students also need a strong aptitude for science and critical thinking.”

There are many opportunities in the nursing profession for transitioning service members. According to Morgan, “A ‘perfect storm’ of events is creating a critical need for skilled nurses nationwide. It’s the result of the large number of nurses who are hitting retirement age and hospitals preferring nurses who have earned a BSN combined with increased need caused by an aging population, the rising incidence of chronic disease, and more people with access to health insurance.” She goes on to say that the opportunities within the nursing field are varied and seemingly endless. “Nursing is such a diverse field that one can find a job in almost anything that interests them. Obviously hospitals and long-term rehabilitation facilities hire RNs, but there are multiple other opportunities such as public health, schools, case management, insurance companies, administration, education, forensics and advanced practice.”

Baker College offers a pre-licensure BSN at seven of its Michigan campuses, and a post-licensure BSN and a Master of Science in nursing through its online campus. The MSN offers two tracks: administrative and education. Theoretical knowledge and practical skills are emphasized, which ensures students’ ability to apply what they’ve learned in a classroom setting to real-world situations. Small class sizes and instructor accessibility are chief priorities. Morgan points out that, “One measure of the Baker College nursing program’s quality is the continued high pass rates – above the national average – of students on the registered nurse national licensure exam.”

Baker College online students can complete one hundred percent of the nursing programs online without ever visiting a campus. Their clinical experiences can be done at locations close to their home. The Online Learning Consortium recognized Baker College’s online courses with the OLC Quality Scorecard Exemplary Endorsement in 2016. It was the first year the OLC provided the Exemplary Endorsement, its highest ranking for online higher education programs.

Central Texas College

Situated just outside of Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas is Central Texas College and its impressive on-site medical training facility. Priscilla Clark, Chair of the Department of Nursing and Allied Health at Central Texas College, says “Our nursing and allied health center is a two-story, 86,000-square-foot structure that houses state-of-the-art equipment, classroom and lab space and a variety of simulated healthcare, emergency and hospital space settings to provide students a unique learning experience.” Included in the facility is an ambulance bay, two six-bed medical/surgical wards, dual two-bed intensive care wards, a six-bed emergency room, a four-bed pediatric room, a two-bed Labor and Delivery room with two warmers, an operating room, and a home health room. Clark says, “Each room is set up to mimic an actual hospital setting to acclimate students to their future working environment.”

A sizable investment, Central Texas College spent more than $1.3 million on technology, equipment and furniture to provide students the most realistic training possible. More than $500,000 was spent on patient simulators or mannequins capable of imitating real patient conditions and symptoms in an authentic hospital environment. CTC also added an ambulance simulator for more than $25,000 which will offer nursing and EMT/paramedic students "real-world" training inside an ambulance. In addition, numerous hospital "smart beds," hospital room equipment and furnishings were purchased at a cost of nearly $200,000.

CTC’s Department of Nursing and Allied Health offers a one-year Vocational Nursing certificate, a three-semester LVN-to-Associate Degree in Nursing degree, and a two-year Associate nursing degree. Students looking for a Bachelor can take their credentials from CTC and apply them toward further education. Clark says, “We have several upper-level university partners that accept our credits toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).” She adds, “Our location also offers us an opportunity to partner with many area hospitals for clinical rotations, including Darnall Army Medical Center on Fort Hood, three local civilian hospitals and the Temple VA Medical Center.”

Excelsior College

Unlike traditional on-campus programs, Excelsior College offers all of its programs entirely online in a number of formats, and they’re designed for adult learners. The associate degree program offers three options to learning the nursing content: online courses, online conferences followed by an examination, or credit-by-examination (independent study). The RN-BS and MS programs have a more traditional curriculum, but are all online, asynchronous 8- and 15-week courses.

Patricia Cannistraci, Assistant Dean of Nursing at Excelsior College, says, “The aim of all of our nursing degrees is to broaden graduates’ horizons, enhance professionalism, and stimulate intellectual curiosity.” The associate degree in nursing program is specifically designed to serve individuals with significant experience in clinically-oriented health care disciplines. It is a pre-licensure competency-base program, so graduates are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam to be granted a Registered Nurse license. Excelsior’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is designed for students who are already RNs and focuses on producing graduates skilled in holistic patient-centered care, professional values, evidence-based practice, critical thinking, and the ability to be an ethical leader. Students pursuing a

Master of Science in Nursing from Excelsior can choose from three concentrations: Nursing Leadership and Administration of Health Care Systems, Nursing Education, and Nursing Informatics. Graduates are eligible to pursue leadership, nurse educator, or informatics positions.

Cannistraci points out that the job security, good wages, and challenging atmosphere make nursing an attractive option for veterans. “Nursing is a fast paced environment, and for veterans who have already known team work, can multi-task, and manage priorities – it’s a career they can excel at.” She adds, “Most importantly though is that in every role as a nurse you are seeing deeply, meaning looking beyond what is the obvious in a situation. You are thinking critically, meaning making sense out of a variety of data that are presenting. And you are the voice of advocacy and caring. Not many jobs provide such rich opportunities to yield such a huge reward.”

Often what attracts people to the field is highly personal. Cannistraci says, “Every student comes to nursing with their own unique story and journey. Some may have known they wanted to be a nurse since they were a child, while others stumble upon nursing through experience with an ill relative. Regardless of how they have arrived, once you are a nurse, it is a gateway to hundreds of unique and varied opportunities. Nursing is probably the most diverse healthcare related field. Beyond the bedside nurse, nurses are literally everywhere. Nurses work in schools providing for the health care of students and faculty, occupational nurses work in businesses and corporations facilitating health in that challenging environment, psych-mental health nurses work in clinics, hospice nurses work with end of life care, nurse researchers work with research colleagues advancing the practice of nursing and healthcare, nurse informaticists analyze data to suggest methods for better patient outcome achievement, nurse educators teach newer nurses, nurses work for insurance companies, they serve roles as expert witness in court cases, some nurses travel to areas of the country that are in need, nurses work as flight nurses transporting the sickest of the sick to high level service facilities, the list is literally endless.”

Florida State University

Students at Florida State University’s School of Nursing can earn a Bachelor of Science designed for practicing as a Registered Nurse. FSU also has a unique Veterans Bachelor of Science in Nursing (VBSN) program, which aims to equip service members with the skills and training necessary to begin a new career in nursing or transition from practicing military medicine to practicing in the civilian world. James Whyte, VBSN Program Director at FSU says, “Our students are prepared to enter practice in a variety of settings both in hospital and community based practice areas. Our graduates enter practice in literally every imaginable practice setting throughout the state and nationally.”

Whyte says that, while the VBSN program is challenging, he finds that veterans are up to the task. “We find that the innate discipline and work ethic we see in our veterans places them in good standing.” He goes on to explain how any veteran can pursue a nursing degree through the VBSN program. “Our program was established through funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration. We have two tracks. One is a traditional 2 year program designed for veterans from non-medical occupational specialties. The other is very unique. It is an accelerated option that allows veterans who

served as medics and corpsman to earn their BSN degree in one year, beginning in January and ending that December. This allows them to enter the workforce and fully transition to civilian life far more quickly.”

Nursing is a field that tends to draw veterans because of their commitment to service. As Whyte explains, “Our veterans have a service orientation and nursing is all about service to others. Many of our veterans have excellent soft and technical skills that don’t always transition to the civilian workforce. Our program allows them to leverage these skills to enter a field with one hundred percent employment. Through this program, patients are exposed to some of the best and brightest our nation has to offer.”

Additional Info

  • Issue: 12
  • Volume: 2
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