Nursing Community Pledges Support for Troops, Families
By Lisa Daniel
WASHINGTON, April 11, 2012 - First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden today announced a major pledge by the nation's nursing community to better understand the unique health needs of service members, veterans, and their families, and to reach out to provide treatment wherever it is needed.
Obama and Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, announced at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia that 150 state and national nursing organizations and 500 nursing schools, representing the nation's 3 million nurses, signed the pledge as the latest endeavor of their "Joining Forces" campaign to help military families.
Noting Penn's reputation for having one of the nation's best nursing schools, Obama and Biden announced that the American Nurses Association, American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the National League for Nursing have committed to educating current and future nurses on how to recognize and care for veterans with post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, depression, and other combat-related issues, in ways appropriate to each nurse's practice setting.
"Whether we're in a hospital, a doctor's office or a community health center, nurses are often the first people we see when we walk through the door," Obama said in a prepared statement. "Because of their expertise, they are trusted to be the frontline of America's health care system. 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."
The pledge follows an announcement in January that the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, with 105 and 25 schools, respectively, made a similar commitment among doctors to lead in the education, research, and clinical care of service members, veterans and their families.
"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," Biden said today. "This commitment is essential to ensuring our returning service men and women receive the care they deserve."
Amy Garcia, the American Nurses Association's chief nursing officer, said nurses of every generation have cared for men and women suffering the visible and invisible wounds of war. Today's new, evidence-based strategies and treatments provide hope, she added.
Some service members, veterans and their families may avoid seeking care for traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder or depression either because of a perceived stigma, or because they live far away from military or veterans' health care facilities, Garcia said. "We want to change that, and ensure that nurses in every community have access to the most current, evidence-based treatments and resources," she said.
Garcia understands the challenge firsthand. In a conference call with reporters yesterday, she described how her husband returned to their home state of Kansas with a traumatic brain injury suffered in combat in Iraq, when a dining hall full of U.S. service members was blown up in Fallujah in December 2004. "It's been difficult to get care in rural areas of America," she said. "The farther you get away, the less aware practitioners may be."
The nurses' Joining Forces pledge "is a positive effort to change that tide," she said.
More than 300,000 veterans -- one of six returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq -- are believed to have post-traumatic stress or a traumatic brain injury, Garcia said.
Key commitments of the nurses' pledge include:
-- Reaching 3.1 million registered nurses by 2015 to raise awareness of PTSD, TBI and depression;
-- Enriching nursing education to ensure that nurses are trained in the unique clinical challenges and best practices associated with caring for military service members, veterans, and their families;
-- Disseminating the most up-to-date information as it relates to TBI and psychological health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress;
-- Growing the body of knowledge leading to improvements in health care and wellness for our military service members, veterans, and their families; and
-- Leading and advancing the community of nurses, institutions, and health care providers dedicated to improving the health of military service members, veterans, and their families.
Special Report: Military Family Support
Joining Forces Campaign