As a U.S. Navy veteran, Dr. Susan Letvak understands the challenges veterans face when they transition to civilian life. Letvak, chair of the Adult Health Nursing Department in UNCG’s School of Nursing, says military veterans trained in health care and medical support gain skills and experience that make them uniquely qualified to care for patients, but they leave the military without a degree that allows them to treat civilians.
“So many veterans have this unbelievable military training and experience that you can’t get as a civilian, but it equates to nothing in the civilian work force,” Letvak says.
To better meet the needs of those veterans as they transition into the civilian workforce, the School of Nursing is launching an accelerated bachelor’s in nursing degree program (BSN) for medically trained military veterans. UNCG-VAP (Veterans Access Program) is an innovative program that allows veterans credit for their valuable hands-on medical experience.
A cohort of about 24 veterans seeking the BSN that leads to RN licensure, will start in Fall 2015. RN-to-BSN students can enroll for January 2015.
UNCG-VAP is funded by a three-year federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant of just under $1 million. UNCG is the only university in North Carolina to receive the HRSA grant this year; grant funds will pay for teaching faculty, a tutor, a part-time counselor and family orientation days.
Many veterans worked as medics, physical therapists, nurses aides, licensed practical nurses, pharmacy techs and respiratory therapists in the military, says Letvak, who will direct the UNCG-VAP program. With some prior college credit, veterans who are RNs can earn the BSN within nine months; those earning the BSN leading to RN licensure can complete the program within 18 months.
UNCG-VAP is targeting medically trained veterans in central North Carolina and South Central Virginia, especially disadvantaged and medically underserved areas. North Carolina is home to more than 776,000 veterans, and Letvak estimates that about 1,500 medically trained veterans live in the target region.
The BSN is becoming increasingly important to nursing students and their employers.
Health care providers increasingly prefer or require nurses to have the BSN degree as having BSN-credentialed nurses at the bedside has been shown to improve outcomes for patients. The Institute of Medicine’s 2010 report on The Future of Nursing recommends that at least 80 percent of bedside nurses have the BSN degree by 2020.
Classes will be a hybrid of online and in-person sessions. Letvak and Jean Reinert — a U.S. Air Force veteran, a nurse and manager of staff education with Cone Health — will teach a tailor-made Transition to Civilian Nursing class. In addition, veterans will study as part of a peer learning community.
“We want them feeling supported, and peer-mentored,” Letvak says. “And the entire nursing faculty is behind them.”
UNCG has made supporting veterans on campus a priority.
For three straight years, UNCG has earned a Military Friendly Schools designation from the veteran-owned Victory Media. Military Friendly Schools represent the top 20 percent of American colleges and universities that deliver the best experience to veteran students based on research data and student feedback.
Because UNCG participates in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Yellow Ribbon Program, veterans with out-of-state residency pay lower, in-state tuition rates. UNCG’s Office of Veterans Services helps veterans with relocation housing.