Empowering Those Who Serve

Texas leaders announce TTUHSC veteran nursing program

Texas Governor Greg Abbott

The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) held a special event to announce receipt of two grants in excess of $1 million in funding to the School of Nursing to launch a Veteran to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (VBSN) program. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, TTUHSC President Tedd L. Mitchell, M.D., Texas Tech University System Chancellor Robert L. Duncan, Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Andres Alcantar, LTC David S. Johnston, Ph.D., MSSI, and Associate Dean Melinda Mitchell Jones, J.D., MSN, were available to discuss and answer questions regarding this groundbreaking program, which opens a career path in nursing for veterans with military medical experience through an accelerated education track of study using a competency based learning model.

Mitchell welcomed the audience and said that the new VBSN program was a source of university-wide pride, particularly as it brought much positive attention to TTUHSC statewide.

“TTUHSC is proud to offer this innovative solution to veterans with prior medical military experience who wish to have a career in nursing, without starting over in their training,” Mitchell said. “We are extremely proud to have Governor Abbott visiting our campus to announce this veteran initiative.”

The VBSN Program, which will commence in spring 2016, utilizes a comprehensive assessment battery to determine a nursing student’s existing level of nursing knowledge and skill resulting from military medical training and experience. VBSN students will be able graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 12 months at a lower cost and help address the growing need for qualified nurses in Texas. The program was initially funded by a $199,544 grant in January 2015 from the Texas Workforce Commission College Credit for Heroes initiative. A federal grant for $1,045,000 was received in July from the U.S. Department of Human Resources and Services Administration.

“This program is a great opportunity for TTUHSC to serve those who have made sacrifices to serve our country,” Jones said.

Jones recalled the first time she presented an early proposal for a veteran nursing program to the Texas Workforce Commission in 2014. Alacantar explained that he and others at the Texas Workforce Commission recognized very quickly that the proposed VBSN program was a natural fit for the newly created College Credit for Heroes initiative, which partners with colleges and universities to create educational opportunities uniquely suited for veterans.

“College Credit for Heroes is a partnership that currently includes 42 partner colleges and universities looking to minimize the amount that a veteran spends in a classroom,” Alcantar said. “When veterans come back, we need to recognize what they’ve done and honor their sacrifice. They have gained incredible knowledge and have sufficient skills to meet the demands of employers’ across different industries. Through these partnerships, we are developing effective ways to accelerate our veterans in the classroom and into Texas jobs.”

Johnston, too, emphasized that many veterans are drastically underserved in education and the workforce upon returning to the U.S.

“The challenges facing our medically trained service members entering the civilian workforce should not be exacerbated by the lack of educational opportunities,” Johnston said. “Many believe that with tuition assistance and the GI Bill, service members and veterans have it made, but that is only half the story. Without a doubt, what TTUHSC has accomplished is a testimony to its commitment to our active-duty service members, reservists, guardsmen and veterans.”

Duncan said that this type of commitment is not limited to the VBSN Program, but that veterans’ needs and education innovation are a continual influence throughout all of the Texas Tech University System and have been a key issue for the governor as well.

“The Texas Tech University System is a military friendly system,” Duncan said. “It’s a really proud day for the system to have the governor here to discuss this program. This governor makes higher education a priority in his administration.”

Abbott said he saw the VBSN Program as an opportunity to help veterans reconnect with civilian life and find a sense of purpose after, what is for some, a traumatic experience in combat. The program’s aspect of rebuilding and transformation lives is particularly resonating for Abbott.

“The challenge we deal with is that those who shed their blood for our freedom come back to a country where the unemployment rate for our veterans is at least twice that of that of the regular civilian population,” Abbott said. “So, it is vital that we as a state do all that we can to aid our veterans and assist them in getting a good-paying job. Therein, lies one of the profound effects of this program as it paves a pathway for our veterans to more quickly reintegrate into the workforce.”

Abbott recalled his own personal experience with tragedy to explain why he felt nursing was a particularly good field for veterans to pursue.

“As a person whose life was broken in half with a traumatic injury that broke my back when I was 26-years old, it would be fair to say that I faced some meaningful obstacles at that time,” Abbott said. “I can tell you for an absolute fact that I was able to become governor of Texas, because there were nurses who worked around the clock, month after month, putting my life back together.”

Abbott said he often wonders if his nurses ever knew the full impact of their work.

“They didn’t even know, in fact they may not even know today, that the person they were taking care of would go on to become governor,” Abbott said. “What you, future nurses, do know is that you are making the lives of every single person you touch so much better. I want to thank you for entering into an incredible profession.”

Abbott was also enthusiastic about the VBSN Program’s potential to help alleviate the pervasive nursing shortage in Texas and the U.S. by more quickly preparing military medical personal for the nursing workforce.

“Nurses are in great demand, so it’s so helpful that we now have a program that will accelerate the process of training those who have served in the U.S. military to fill those job needs,” Abbott said. “The best thing that we can do for them and for the state of Texas is accelerating that process.”

For Abbott, the VBSN model is a means of demonstrating respect and acknowledging the experience of veterans.

“They’ve gone through this training already,” Abbott said. “There’s no reason why they should have to repeat the process and spend the time and money for training they already have. I happen to believe whatever training they got serving in the U.S. military, if it is good enough for the U.S. military, it’s good enough for the State of Texas.”

Abbott receives official TTUHSC military stole

For his support of TTUHSC’s veteran education initiatives, Governor Abbott was given the designated military stole worn by TTUHSC veteran graduates.

“Members of the Texas Tech family who served in the military are allowed to wear this special stole at graduation,” Mitchell said before encouraging the governor to wear the camouflage stole bearing a Double T at the next convocation in which he participates.

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