HHS to fund soldiers-to-nurses program

A new program will help military veterans with healthcare experience or training to build on their skills and abilities and earn bachelor's degrees in nursing, Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced this week.

The new Veterans' Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program will fund up to nine cooperative agreements at $350,000 each, according to an announcement from HHS during Monday's White House Forum on Military Credentialing and Licensing. The program is set for $3 million in funding by the end of fiscal 2013.

"The Veterans' Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program recognizes the skills, experience and sacrifices of our veterans, while helping to grow our nursing workforce," Sebelius said.  "It helps veterans formalize their skills to get jobs, while strengthening Americans' access to care."

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will oversee the program.

"Through this innovative program, veterans with valuable medical expertise can now help fill the ranks of nurses across the nation," HRSA Administrator Mary K. Wakefield, Ph.D., said in the HHS announcement.

Funding will go to accredited nursing schools in an attempt to increase veteran enrollment and to determine how military healthcare experience can count toward academic credit.

This new program aims to address needs identified in the 2013 White House Report, "The Fast Track to Civilian Employment: Streamlining Credentialing and Licensing for Service Members, Veterans, and Their Spouses."

The number of nurses with bachelor's degrees is growing. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune highlights the growing trend of nurses with two-year associate degrees enrolling in accelerated programs to obtain a bachelor's degree in nursing. Hospitals are pushing nursing staffs to get bachelor's degrees as they work to achieve certification recognizing quality nursing care.

"We need a nursing workforce that is as highly educated as possible," Jane Kirschling, president of the Washington, D.C.-based American Association of Colleges of Nursing, told the Tribune. "The care that's delivered across America … it has (become) extremely complex." The organization reports that the number of nurses enrolled in a baccalaureate nursing program has increased by 88 percent.

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- visit www.grants.gov

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