More nurses to be trained to treat PTSD, TBI

(Navy Times) Nursing schools and professional nursing organizations will add coursework and training opportunities on military-related injuries and illnesses under a White House-led initiative to improve health care for former troops and their families.

On Wednesday, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, plan to unveil an agreement with 150 nursing organizations and 500 nursing schools to educate nurses on combat-related injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

The effort, part of the White House’s Joining Forces campaign, aims to reach 3 million nurses on the “front lines of health care,” Joining Forces Director Navy Capt. Bradley Cooper told reporters Tuesday.

“With nurses … present in literally every community in America, they’ll be positioned to make a significant and positive impact on our veterans and their families for the long term,” Cooper said.

The effort means nurses will be trained to recognize the signs of combat-related stress and traumatic brain injury as well as mental health disorders such as combat-related depression, officials said.

“The goal is to raise awareness among every nurse throughout the country to recognize the signs and symptoms and lower the stigma of getting care,” said Amy Garcia, chief nursing officer for the American Nurses Association.

The White House estimates that 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from traumatic brain injury, PTSD or other combat-related mental health issues, such as depression.

About half have sought care from the Veterans Affairs Department, leaving about 150,000 former service members seeking civilian care, Cooper said.

Joining Forces is a campaign designed to raise awareness of the needs of military personnel, veterans and their families. It was launched a year ago this week.

Obama and Biden will unveil more details on the new initiative when they speak Wednesday at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

In January, Mrs. Obama announced a similar pledge by 135 medical schools to educate future physicians and increase research on what are commonly referred to as the “invisible wounds” of war — PTSD and TBI.

Garcia said no federal funding is being used for the effort.

According to Garcia, one out of every 100 Americans is a nurse. Many don’t work in fields where they would be exposed to head injury or behavioral health disorders. Educating all nurses on these injuries and illnesses would lead to better veterans’ care, she said.

“We want to make sure they understand about new treatments and new science so they can make appropriate referrals,” Garcia said.

The professional education and training opportunities that will be offered through the initiative will be voluntary, she added.