WASHINGTON — A coalition of nursing schools and medical organizations will train more than 3 million nurses in coming years on how to recognize and respond to post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other unseen war wounds in veterans, White House officials announced Tuesday.
The news comes three months after officials from the nation’s leading medical colleges announced they’d work similar lessons on war wounds into their curricula.
But Amy Garcia, chief nursing officer of the American Nurses Association, said the new initiative should have a more immediate impact on veterans care, because officials can introduce the lessons into professional development courses, medical journals and other nursing resources in a matter of weeks, not years.
She also noted that many of the nurses involved are already working with veterans in their communities, and can immediately put the new knowledge into practice.
“Our goal is to raise awareness of these issues, teach nurses to recognize the signs and symptoms, and help reduce the stigma of seeking care,” she said.
The nursing announcement came in the midst of multiple events marking the first anniversary of the White House’s Joining Forces campaign, launched to highlight the sacrifices and struggles facing returning troops and military families.
On Wednesday, first lady Michelle Obama said that more than 50,000 veterans and military spouses have found jobs through the campaign’s efforts, and the attention has encouraged thousands of charities and individuals to reach out and help those families.
“This effort is about making an impact,” she told a crowd of supporters at the White House. “It is about repaying our debt to our veterans and military families. It’s about giving these heroes the opportunities they deserve.”
Officials from the campaign said that roughly one in six veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from PTSD or TBI.
While medical staff within the Veterans Affairs health system are familiar with the injuries, campaign staffers noted that the majority of veterans still receive care outside that system, where private physicians often have less experience and knowledge with the issues.
As part of the effort, the American Psychiatric Nurses Association has already developed online continuing education courses on PTSD focusing on pain management, sleep disturbances and issues specific to women veterans. Other groups are launching similar efforts.