Veterans supporting veterans

November 9, 2017

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Now in its third year, GW Nursing’s Veterans to BSN initiative is modeled around building community and veterans supporting each other. Transition counseling, monthly group lunches and faculty advisors who themselves have prior military are key features.

Supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant, the initiative is intended to help transition veterans from the military to an ever-growing civilian career as efficiently as possible by offering academic credit for military training and placing them in GW Nursing’s Accelerated BSN option.

Aaron Cartermartinez spent 11.5 years in the Marines. He heard about the Veterans initiative through a friend who told him that GW Nursing was more veteran-friendly than other programs. Cartermartinez started classes in August, and so far hasn’t been disappointed. “I love that the staff are actually veterans and so whenever I need help or have a question, can go straight to them,” he said.

Dr. Gretchen Wiersma, Veterans to BSN director actually began her nursing career in 1987 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army. After 10 years in the Army, Wiersma began working in nurse education and has helped shape the Veterans BSN option since its beginning.

Cartermartinez and Carlos Rangel Meija, who is currently serving in the Navy and receiving nursing education through GW Nursing, said they’ve gotten tips on how to be successful from veterans in previous GW Nursing BSN cohorts.

“The camaraderie has been really good,” Cartermartinez said.

Wiersma and other faculty members are studying how to continuously improve support for veteran and military students. One faculty study shows that veteran students are academically similar to nonveteran students. This survey focused on faculty perspective through two surveys and two focus groups over a period of 2.5 years. Wiersma has also studied the key strategies for veteran success in nursing, which include cohort support, staff dedicated to supporting the administrative hurdles and ongoing communication with faculty members.

Carolyn Cummings, a clinical instructor and retired Air Force nurse and Paul Tschudi, who also teach the Veterans to BSN students, are presenting their own research about working with veterans next year.

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number UF1HP26982 and title Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention (NEPQR) Program: Veterans Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree for grant amount $1,047,666, with no financing by nongovernmental sources. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be constructed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsement be inferred by HRSA, HHS, or the US government.