Fairfield University's School of Nursing joins forces with the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden to support veterans and military families


Image: Joining ForcesSuzanne Campbell, Ph.D., dean of Fairfield University's School of Nursing, was one of only 20 nursing deans nationwide invited to attend a special event with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden concerning a new initiative to help veterans suffering from "the invisible wounds of war."

The meeting centered on Fairfield's School of Nursing joining an effort to educate nursing students on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) - two devastating illnesses that America's war veterans are fighting in increasing numbers. The First Lady and Dr. Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, announced a commitment from nurses across the country eager to serve veterans and military families. In a broad, coordinated effort, more than 150 state and national nursing organizations as well as nursing schools, including Fairfield - a leader in caring for veterans - have committed to further educate the nation's three million nurses so they are prepared to meet the unique health needs of service members, veterans, and their families. This project builds on efforts by Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden to help veterans by way of "Joining Forces," an initiative that mobilizes all sectors of society to address military families' unique needs as they pertain to employment, education and wellness.

"Whether we're in a hospital, a doctor's office or a community health center, nurses are often the first people we see when we walk through the door," said Mrs. Obama at the event, which took place at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. "Because of their expertise, they are trusted to be the frontline of America's health care system. That's why Jill and I knew we could turn to America's nurses and nursing students to help our veterans and military families get the world-class care that they've earned. It's clear from today's announcement that the nursing community is well on its way to serving our men and women in uniform and their families."

Dr. Biden added: "Nurses are at the center of providing lifesaving care in communities across the country - and their reach is particularly important because our veterans don't always seek care through the VA system. This commitment is essential to ensuring our returning service men and women receive the care they deserve."

Led by the American Nurses Association, American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the National League for Nursing, in coordination with the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, nursing organizations and schools have committed to educating current and future nurses on how to recognize and care for veterans impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression, and other combat-related issues, in ways appropriate to each nurse's practice setting.

The invisible wounds of war, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, have impacted approximately one in six of troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq - more than 300,000 veterans. And since 2000, more than 44,000 of those troops have suffered at least a moderate-grade traumatic brain injury.

Dr. Campbell said 'Joining Forces' is a way for the School of Nursing to further enhance care for area veterans and their families. "Fairfield is grateful for its partnership with the West Haven VA Hospital in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' 'VA Nursing Academy,' as well as our involvement in the Center of Excellence in Primary Care Education program. This new endeavor is another vital avenue for our faculty and students to be of service to troops returning home."

According to Dr. Campbell, nurses are eager to understand the needs of those who have served, to recognize the warning signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or suicide, and to provide evidence-based care or refer them as appropriate.

Veterans seeking care within the Veterans Affairs (VA) health system are often treated by health care professionals who have received extensive training in mental health issues. But the majority of veterans in the country seek care outside of the VA system: they usually visit their local hospital staffed by nurses and doctors in their communities.

That's why the announcement will be so significant for troops and their families. America's nurses are trusted partners in providing lifesaving and life-sustaining care in nearly every community and every setting where health care is delivered. They can make a dramatic and positive impact on the long-term health of hundreds of thousands of veterans, according to Dr. Campbell.

Nursing leaders have also committed to disseminating effective models for care and to sharing the most up-to-date information on these conditions across academic and practice settings. By working to expand the body of clinical knowledge in this arena and by partnering with other health care providers and institutions, nursing leaders across the country will continue to advance high quality treatment for these conditions in every community.

For more information about how Fairfield's School of Nursing is helping veterans, visit http://www.fairfield.edu/son/son_va.html. For more information about 'Joining Forces,' visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces/get-involved.


Image: Fairfield's School of Nursing is part of a major new program to educate nursing students on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden announced the project, which involves a commitment from nurses across the country eager to serve veterans and military families. Photo courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and photographer I. George Bilyk.

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

Posted on April 19, 2012

Vol. 44, No. 276