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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: