RIC Nursing School joins forces with First Lady and Dr. Biden to support veterans and military families  

Jane Williams (second row, second from right), was one of only 20 nursing deans nationwide invited to an event at the University of Pennsylvania led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden (front row center). (Photo courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. Photographer I. George Bilyk.)
Rhode Island College’s School of Nursing joined the ranks of hundreds of other nursing schools to educate nursing students on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the coming years.

Jane Williams, dean of RIC’s School of Nursing, was one of only 20 nursing deans nationwide invited to attend an event held on April 12 at the University of Pennsylvania.

Williams was also present at the Joining Forces White House event with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden and participated in a Nursing Leadership Summit.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden announced a commitment from nurses across the country to serve veterans and military families with as much duty as veterans have served our country. In a broad, coordinated effort, more than 150 state and national nursing organizations and over 500 nursing schools, including Rhode Island College’s School of Nursing, have committed to further educate our nation’s three million nurses so that they are prepared to meet the unique health needs of service members, veterans and their families.

Led by the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the National League for Nursing, in coordination with the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, nursing organizations and schools have committed to recognize and care for veterans impacted by PTSD, TBI, depression and other combat-related issues in ways appropriate to each nurse’s practice setting.

First Lady Michelle Obama said, “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. Because of their expertise, they are trusted to be at 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. It’s clear from today’s announcement that the nursing community is well on its way to serving our men and women in uniform and their families.”

And Dr. Jill Biden added, “Nurses are at the center of providing lifesaving care in communities across the country, and their reach is particularly important because our veterans don't always seek care through the VA system. This commitment is essential to ensuring that our returning service men and women receive the care they deserve.”

“I’m honored to represent Rhode Island College,” said Dean Williams, ”in this extraordinarily important effort to educate our nurses about the critical and distinctive health care requirement of veterans and their families. Our partnership with the Providence VA Medical Center has been an integral part of RIC’s effort to prepare our nurses for the challenges of caring for former and current service members.”

In 2008 RIC’s nursing school and the Providence VA Medical Center were chosen to participate in the national VA Nursing Academy, a four-year program that partners VA health care with top nursing schools in the nation to provide skilled nurses for the rising number of aging and returning veterans.

This partnership has resulted in, among other initiatives, an expanded focus on veteran health issues in the nursing curriculum, a 10-fold increase in student clinical learning with the veteran population, simulations that address the unique needs of veterans, and quality improvement models and microsystem redesign to prepare nurses to work effectively and efficiently with veterans.

The invisible wounds of war, PTSD and TBI, have impacted approximately one in six of our troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq – more than 300,000 veterans. And since they year 2000, more than 44,000 of those troops have suffered at least a moderate-grade traumatic brain injury.

Veterans seeking care within the VA health system are often treated by health care professionals who have received extensive training in mental health issues. But the majority of veterans in the country seek care outside of the VA system – they usually visit their local hospital staffed by nurses and doctors in their communities. That’s why today’s announcement will be so significant for our troops and their families.

America’s nurses are trusted partners in providing life-saving and life-sustaining care in nearly every community and every setting where health care is delivered. They can make a dramatic and positive impact on the long-term health of hundreds of thousands of veterans. And they are eager to understand the needs of those who have served, to recognize the warning signs of PTSD, depression or suicide, and to know where to send them for help.

Nursing leaders have also committed to disseminating effective models for care and to sharing the most up-to-date information on these conditions across academic and practice settings. By working to expand the body of clinical knowledge in this arena and by partnering with other health care providers and institutions, nursing leaders across the country will continue to advance high quality treatment for these conditions in every community.