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Nurses To Lead the Fight to Help Vets Suffering from TBI, PTSD

America’s nurses are about to become the first line of defense in recognizing and treating symptoms of PTSD and TBI.

Today Michelle Obama announced an initiative by more than 150 nursing organizations and hundreds of nursing schools to train current and future nurses to recognize the injuries and care for veterans suffering from them.

The announcement is part of the first lady’s one-year celebration of her Joining Forces campaign. The program urges businesses and community groups to help members of the armed forces, veterans and their families.

Last year Mrs. Obama’s embarked a nationwide tour to drum up support for military families appearing at homeless shelters and on the popular Nickelodeon show, “iCarly.”

Last summer, the president challenged American businesses to hire or train 100,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013. Already, 50,000 have joined the workforce and private sector employers have pledged to hire an additional 160,000 veterans and spouses in the coming years.

Dave Starling, president and chief executive officer of The Kansas City Southern Railway Company, said 14 percent of his companies’ new hires are veterans. Starling himself is a West Point graduate and served as a Cobra pilot. The skills he and other military members learn in the field are irreplaceable.

He said veterans tend to have a “strong work ethic, are team players with a high aptitude for learning, are disciplined and high motivated,” to name just a few attributes.

“We’re proud to hire veterans, not just because it is patriotic, but it is also good for our bottom line,” he said.

As companies prepare to hire more military members and their spouses, the new nursing initiative aims to help veterans recover and work toward filling those jobs.

Government officials estimate that one in six veterans, roughly 300,000 military members, suffer from PTSD or TBI. About half of those people are seeking treatment outside of military or VA health care centers, if they are seeking treatment at all.

The new initiative puts trained nurses not just in hospitals but in neighborhoods, said Capt. Brad Cooper, executive director of Joining Forces.

“In order to positively impact their healthcare we need to meet them where they are with nurses on the front line of the healthcare system,” he said.  “They are in a position to make a significant and positive impact.”

Amy Garcia, chief programs officer of the American Nurses Association agreed. She said one in every 100 Americans is a nurse. Veterans see them not just during a doctor’s visit, but sitting next to them in the pew at church, at school events and in the grocery store aisle.

“Our goal is to raise awareness through every nurse in the country to recognize the signs and symptoms and lower the stigma of getting care,” Garcia said.

The new training will use research-based strategies and treatments that are more effective than any tool medical professionals have had in the past to treat TBI and PTSD.

“We can take existing programs developed by the Department of Defense and the Veterans’ Administration and translate those into materials that can help nurses in their work,” Garcia said. “We are with patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We see the suffering and now we can do something about it.”

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