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Nursing the wounded

The end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will bring home hundreds of thousands of enlisted men and women, and it’s likely that many of them will come home with either traumatic brain injuries or serious psychological wounds from their tours of duty. Caring for these veterans will be a decades-long effort for the United States.

According to a recent Inspector General’s report, the Veterans Affairs Department is seriously understaffed when it comes to treating veterans with mental health problems. These newly returning veterans will test the limits and effectiveness of that system even more.   The V.A. has also been sharply criticized by several veterans groups  for allegedly dropping the ball when troubled veterans turned to the Department for help.

There’s a new effort being made to train more of the nation’s nurses to help care for this growing population of veterans.  First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden recently launched an initiative to create specialized training in veterans health care so nurses nationwide can better care for this coming wave of new vets.

To understand the myriad ways nurses are already working in veterans care, we recently visited the large Veterans Affairs hospital in San Diego, and profiled three nurses there.  Here’s our report:


  • bbbboynton

    Wonderfully inspiring professional nursing path.  Also a tribute to Veterans and their communities, and a sobering reminder about costs of war.  I’ll write a blog post about this one day soon.

  • Dr. Clair Hinckley

    How about using chaplains to work with many of these veterans?  Availability, training, and experience make them a great resource.  Chaplains do a lot more than discuss religion; in fact, much of their work deals with just the sorts of issues returning veterans are facing.

  • jimcskiguy

    Veterans Victimized Again 40 years later 1972 and 2012

             In 1972 I was discharged at Travis AFB
    completing my commitment to our country’s demands of the times on millions of
    our young. My reward was the GI Bill that I used to obtain a Masters Degree in
    education from Sacramento State University. I enjoyed a long and successful
    career teaching in  Placerville CA. One
    of my fellow educators was a guy named Jim Hall.  He was a Navy 
    Corpsman during the darkest days of Viet Nam. Jim wanted to be a nurse
    instead of a teacher so he looked for any school that would give him credit for
    his extensive training and experience. He found only one; it was Duke
    University. In 1965 Duke opened a new program for an occupation called Physicians
    Assistant. They focused and fast tracked 
    thousands of Corpsmen like him through their “new program”. Jim chose
    not to move to North Carolina to attend Duke University to use his GI Bill there
    but became a great teacher instead here in Placerville. Jim came home to this
    type of instutition barriers of todays vets.

    forward to  the 2010.   My son Jay returned from Iraq and  looked for a college that would grant him
    credit for his medical training that included Combat Medic school and a year  long nursing program at Walter Reed Army  Medical Center in  Washington DC.  He applied for admission to CSUS School of
    Nursing thinking that they would surely 
    value his experience and training. He was wrong to assume that  and was told that they will not consider any
    of his training for admission to their nursing program! Go back to the end of
    the line and wait, keep taking useless classes and maybe you will get in.

    became an advocate for this issue and I wanted to find out why this happens. I
    followed the money to see how this could happen. Today’s veterans are
    victimized by a “Ponzelike scam” that includes little or no credit for their
    training and expereices,a loophole in the 1998 Higher Education Act that gives
    schools and banks 9 federally guaranteed student loans for every one veteran
    receiving the GI Bill!  Vast
    sums are involved: between 2006 and 2010 the money received by just 20 for
    profit schools and companies soared to an estimated $521.2 Million from $66.6
    million. Veterans who used  their GI Bill
    made schools  and banks lots of money.
    The  real effect of this is that veterans
    are kept in school longer and out of the employment market.

    closing ,I submit to you that this  is
    the same story 40 years later for the thousands of newest vets as it was for
    the millions of vets who came back from Viet Nam. The biggest difference is
    that those who are being made victim by this newest scam do not even realize
    it. Please consider adding your voice to this by sending letters and emails to
    support  for 3 bills before the
    California legislature. They are AB 1976, AB 1932 and AB 2462. They may make it
    to Gov Browns desk but he could just ignore the issue and the bills will die
    without his signature.  That would be a
    tragedy for our future healthcare system and Californians who could be treated
    by such valuable,competent  professionals
    like Jay.


     Jim Cahill MA ed

    The dad

     USAF 1968 to 1972


  • Charlesgary55

    The nursing staff at Columbus,Ohio V.A. have been great to me. They have been very helpful on many of my visits.   It,s too bad I have to deal with the V.A. in Cleveland, Ohio. The have given me more set backs in my mental health than consuling has been able to over come. Why must they be so difficult and incompetent in their dealings with vets?
    C G Murphy U.S.Army 1969/1971

  • Chris Howard

    This added clip was nicely should be sent around the country so other VA facilities can see how living in the sububurbs and our Veterans can still be treated for as best as they can…by all members of their medical team…   Thank you, Chris Howard, Rutland, Vermont 

  • Chris Howard

    the veterans of our nation can continue to live at home and receive the very same medical care from their doctors and nurses while staying at the comfort of their home.  This kind of information should be shared with other VA Centers across our nation…Thank you,     Chris Howard, Rutland, Vermont

  • Chris Howard

    I recently watched a video called, “Nursing the wounded” and it wonderful…it was about our wonderful veterans who are cared for at home, and the medical teams come to their homes. it was quite extrodinary and if only the VA Centers could see this. I know that with time and patience, the families could be taught to change and help out as much as they could. The medical teams are wonderful people and have many patiences to see in one day…the families need to help out and step in as much as they can..Bless all of our veterans and their families…watch this video…

  • Kathy Hurley

    Great article and video !  These nurses are doing really great work for our veterans !

  • Parestar

    Type your comment here

    I’ve been an advanced practice nurse working in the VA for 22 years.  PBS did a good job showing the different nursing interventions, such as using research to improve trauma therapy to providing assessment and counseling to veterans and their families in the home.  We should remember veterans return home with both psychological and physical trauma that impacts the entire family so it makes sense to offer multidisiplinary care in veteran’s homes so everyone benefits. The VA needs to recognize this and develop more home based care.
    Diane Mohit, PMHCNS-BC  New York

  • Phyllis Belton MSN,RN

    I believe it is critical that each returning veteran has time to express their concerns and thoughts as need with someone face-to-face. Venting and expressing their needs leads to a more stable healing of the mind and the body, as a whole. I truly believe in the holistic approach, to help them not feel like a number or a person in an assembly line of care.
    Veteran care is totally different from care needed and received by the civilian population. More of the holistic design of care needs to be incorporated into treating the whole person as a veteran.

  • Nancy Valentine

    As a former Chief Nurse Executive of the US Department of Veterans Affairs, I applaud PBS for making this amazing video of the real work that nurses perform every day. My clinical background is in psychiatric nursing and understand the psycho social aspects involved in all care delivery. However, the emotional and psychological trauma of our returning citizens who sacrificed so much for our country is a national emergency as every soldier impacts self, family and community. Nurses are key to their survival and growth as human beings. War is hell and returning home should not be an extension of their sacrifice for a lifetime. This film is a window of hope and opportunity for these problems to be addressed openly. I am pround of the VA, the nurses and other health professionals who are dedicating their lives to those who have served. This should be widely disseminated to bring this issue to the attention of the broader public. Our returning veterans deserve a good life as they fought for the life we all enjoy.

    Bravo, PBS!

  • Cynthia Dexter

    what can the cna’s do to participate in this progam

  • Daniela

    Thank you for this discussion. However, it is important for the public to know that nurses have extensive educations and that we have degrees that allow us to doour work successfully. If Jill Bormann is doing scientific research and she is a nurse, then she not only is an RN, but also has at least an MS (master’s degree) and probably a PhD.
    Thank you,
    Daniela, RN, MS (PhD student in nursing)

  • Bob

    Here in Australia, the care our diggers get is appalling when compared to US and UK. The medical system is treating the physical wounds but certainly not the emotional wounds.

  • W L Simpson

    Wonder how  nurses feel about us meddling around the world, since the net result is just a lot of ruined lives.

  • Dottie

    Thank you for sharing this report.  By all means, may we all in the medical profession do our very best to alleviate any suffering that we can.  We love and appreciate our Heros of Service.