Fairfield University's accelerated second-degree program offers School of Nursing students the opportunity to work with veterans


Fairfield University's accelerated second-degree nursing program, enabling students to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing in approximately 15 months, presents the opportunity to take part in the "VA Nursing Academy," a new pilot program initiated by United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The second-degree program is aimed at people who are looking to make a career change to become registered nurses, and is open to qualified students who have earned a bachelor's degree in any discipline, such those in the liberal arts.

The VA Nursing Academy program aims to attract more nursing students to work for the VA Healthcare System after graduation, a major concern because about 60 percent of VA nurses will reach retirement age within the next 15 years. In addition to caring for veterans, major benefits of being employed by the VA Healthcare System enable qualified nurses to reduce school loan debt, and pursue graduate degrees in nursing with the VA covering tuition costs. The Education Debt Reduction Program allows eligible VA nurses to receive a maximum of $48,000 for education loan repayment. The National Nurses Education Initiative enables eligible VA nurses seeking master's degrees in nursing to apply for scholarship funds, which can total as much as $31,080.

The next Fairfield second-degree program begins in June. For details, visit http://www.fairfield.edu/son_2nddegree.html or call (203) 254-4000, ext. 4150. There is an Open Advising and Registration Event for this SON program on Tuesday, January 8, 2008, at the Kelley Center on the Fairfield campus, from noon to 7 p.m.

In July, Fairfield's School of Nursing and Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System (VACHS), also known as the VA Hospital in West Haven, were selected by the VA to establish a Nursing Academy, a unique partnership that is part of a five-year, $40 million initiative addressing the nation's severe nursing shortage. Fairfield was one of just four universities nationwide - and the only one in the Northeast - selected to participate in the program, which is providing additional nurses to care for veterans.

Jeanne M. Novotny, Ph. D., RN, FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing, said the VA partnership focuses on nursing education and the professional and scholarly development of nursing students. "It is providing well-educated, compassionate nurses to care for our veterans. It is an initiative to serve those who served our country."

Doris T. Lippman, Ed. D., Professor of Nursing, said a great sense of fulfillment comes to nursing students who rotate with the VA. "Our students experience an emotional connection with their patients. It arises from caring for those who have made sacrifices defending our country."

Carole Ann Pomarico, M.S.N., M.A., R.N., assistant professor of nursing, said that the Nursing Academy program is building on the strong relationship VACHS and the School of Nursing have had for many years, and this allows for an expansion of that partnership. "All Fairfield nursing students will now have enhanced clinical rotations at the VA Hospital in West Haven, so there will be more students rotating there."

This will provide students with more educational experiences and opportunities to learn about how to care for veterans, while increasing nursing students' exposure to the many opportunities that employment with the VA offers. The West Haven site cares for veterans of World War II through the Iraq War. It specializes in palliative care, hospice care, geriatric care and pain management.

Nursing Academy participants will take part in a project evaluating structure, process and outcomes assessment related to nursing-sensitive measures, such as infections, falls, medication errors, and pain management. This will then help determine if improvements to patient care can be made, and replicated at other hospitals.

The Nursing Academy program calls for eight more universities to partner with the VA over the next two years, for a total of 12 partnerships nationwide. The VA currently provides clinical education for approximately 100,000 health professional trainees annually, including students from more than 600 schools of nursing.

Bookmark and Share

Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 4, 2007

Vol. 40, No. 129