LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Soon, veterans who tended to the sick and wounded while they were in the military won't have to start from square one when pursuing a nursing degree at the University of Southern Mississippi. The College of Nursing has received a $1 million grant. The money will fund a new program at the Gulf Park campus that helps former military medics to become registered nurses in less than the usual time.
In the simulation lab, USM nursing students use specially designed mannequins to practice everything from treating heart attack patients to delivering babies. Before they can go into the lab, students are required to take classes on the very basics of healthcare.
"In the first semester, when our students are just learning to do health assessments, they're just learning to interact with patients and do some general skills. Many of our veterans have already earned those skills through the programs they had in the military as corpsmen," said Associate Dean of Nursing Sandra Bishop.
USM will give military veterans trained as medics the opportunity to skip ahead while earning their Bachelor of Science degrees in nursing. The veterans will be able to take competency tests and receive credit based on their amount of healthcare knowledge.
"They've had tremendous amounts of experience in the service that they have been in, and the care of the patients, the triage," said Dr. Katherine Nugent, College of Nursing Dean. "It's been tremendous critical thinking and leadership experience. So when they want to come into nursing, there are some courses that they already have those competencies and knowledge, so they can skip maybe a semester or half a semester depending on where they are. Instead of the five semesters of going through, they'll be able to get through in four at the very earliest."
From knowing how to work as a team to their dedication to helping others, USM officials said veterans have much to offer the nursing profession, and getting them the right training can ease the country's nursing shortage.
"You've got to realize these young people entering the work force coming out of the military; they come from backgrounds not about money. It's service," said Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond, Director of Veteran and Military Student Services. "They served their nation, and they want to reenter the workforce in service. They want to be a nurse."
The veteran nursing courses will begin in the spring of 2015. USM officials said they believe the proximity the Gulf Coast campus has to Keesler Air Force Base, the Gulfport Seabee Base and the Biloxi VA will encourage veterans in other parts of the country to relocate here for the program.