ARLINGTON — To help military veterans train for civilian jobs and help address a coming nursing shortage, the UT Arlington College of Nursing will use nearly $300,000 in federal grant money to develop a Veterans Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.Last month, the Health and Human Services Department Services announced that is was giving $291,408 to the University of Texas at Arlington for the new program.Out of the 33,000 students enrolled at UT Arlington this fall, 2,600 are military veterans. Of those, 848 have declared their intent to apply to the College of Nursing, UT Arlington spokeswoman Traci Peterson said. Students will be able to earn their degree in 15 months through an adapted and expanded version of an accelerated program that lets nursing students complete coursework online and clinical work in local hospitals.Veterans will be able to bypass entry-level courses based on education and training they received in the military, allowing them to learn advanced skills and leadership, said Beth Mancini, College of Nursing associate dean.“We believe that many of these individuals, because of their military experience and training, should be on a fast trajectory to leadership roles in the nursing profession, we hope that we are helping them get a jump start,” she said.The college will compare training materials from the military to the College of Nursing’s coursework and use its Smart Hospital, a virtual hospital with lifelike patient simulators, to test the students on their knowledge.Mancini is the primary investigator for the grant, which could provide UT Arlington more than $1 million during the next four years . UT Arlington, which has the largest public nursing program in the nation, is one of nine schools nationwide to receive the funds.“The Veterans’ Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program recognizes the valuable skills and experience of our veterans, while addressing the nation’s nursing workforce needs,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a news release. “The education and training they receive helps qualify them for civilian nursing positions, while expanding Americans’ access to high-quality care.”College of Nursing leaders are looking to enroll about 10 veterans by this time next year and will work with the Veterans Affairs North Texas Health Care System for clinical training. Mancini said the college will also work with the university’s Veterans Assistance Center, which opened this summer, to recruit students.Often veterans who are unsure of what they want to do education-wise go to the center looking for ways to get back to everyday life and assimilate in the workforce, said Lisa Thompson, director of UT Arlington’s TRIO pre-college programs, which help motivate and support students. Thompson said she’ll work with veterans to see if the nursing program could work for them.UT Arlington hopes to develop a model that can be used elsewhere.“One of the goals of this program is to get a better understanding and support caring for veterans,” Mancini said. “By having veterans do their clinicals in the veterans health system, this will have a synergistic effect.”Although this type of partnership won’t work for all nursing degrees, she said, veterans can have medical, surgical, critical and community care training at the level that North Texas’ VA health system provides.“We believe they were an incredible asset to the country when they were in service and now they can be an incredible asset to the provision of healthcare,” Mancini said.
Monica S. Nagy, 817-390-7792 Twitter:@MonicaNagyFWST