There are certain courageous individuals who demonstrate an unflappable reliability under high-pressure, life-or-death situations. They save lives day after day as advocates for the safety and well being of Americans. Drawing similarities to soldiers, it should come as no surprise that First Lady Michelle Obama refers to these everyday heroes as "the frontline of America's healthcare system." These individuals, every bit deserving of such high praise, are registered nurses.
And who could be better experienced to treat soldiers when they return home after a prolonged war than a highly trained nurse? With the last remaining combat troops withdrawing from Iraq in late 2011, scores of battle-scarred men and women are attempting to overcome the physical and psychological wounds and trauma they incurred overseas, and reclaim the healthy, functional lives they once lived. Adjusting to post-war life, however, is not a simple task.
Many veterans returning from active duty are challenged to overcome a variety of distinct health concerns, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and depression. The experiences and circumstances that caused these conditions are unique and require an additional skillset than those ordinarily required to treat more common patient ailments. Because of this fact, better preparing nurses and nursing aides to respond to the special needs of veterans has become a strong directive from the White House.
As someone with her finger on the pulse of the healthcare industry, Michelle Obama recognized the need for delivering specialized nursing care to veterans, and teamed with Dr. Jill Biden to launch Joining Forces, an organization created to serve this mission. This aptly named initiative serves to further the education of nurses about the unique conditions and needs of veterans and their families, and helps make healthcare more easily accessible for veterans.
Prior to the Joining Forces initiative, most veterans had little choice but to travel to the nearest VA hospital where healthcare specialists are trained to treat common battle-related conditions. Travelling lengthy distances, however, can be taxing for wounded or traumatized veterans. As more nurses receive training and education through Joining Forces, veterans are able to receive quality healthcare without the additional strain of travel.
Joining Forces has already received widespread support from healthcare industry advocates as evidenced by the American Nurses Association (ANA) pledge to raise awareness of PTSD, TBI and veteran depression among 3.1 million nurses by 2015. Additionally, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) allocated space on its website to broadcast the Joining Forces initiative to more than 148,000 nurse practitioners. The AANP also reached out to several nursing groups and state representatives, requesting that they help promote Joining Forces throughout their respective organizations and regions.
America's nurses are already committed to healing patients. Programs like Joining Forces make it possible for them to gain specialized training to return a service to those who pay a price to protect the nation. If you are a nurse or a veteran, please share your thoughts about the value of a program like Joining Forces in our comments section. And, thank you for your service.