The American Nurses Association (ANA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) partnered to facilitate and coordinate a collective voice of the nursing profession in full support of “Joining Forces,” First Lady Michelle Obama’s comprehensive national initiative to mobilize all sectors of the community to give our service members, veterans, and their families the support they deserve in employment, education, and wellness. Additional active partners supporting the effort include the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE), and the National League for Nursing (NLN). All nursing professionals, organizations, schools, and communities are encouraged to get involved and be engaged.
At a Joining Forces event held April 11 at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Mrs. Obama had this to say about nurses’ role in the project: “Whether we’re in a hospital, a doctor’s office, or a community health center, nurses are often the first people we see when we walk through the door. Because of their expertise, they are trusted to be the frontline of America’s health care system…I knew we could turn to America’s nurses and nursing students to help our veterans and military families get the world-class care that they’ve earned.”
ANA President Karen A. Daley, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, also at the meeting, said, “The American Nurses Association is honored to participate in the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative. We are dedicated to addressing the specific health care needs of military service members, veterans, and their families. They sacrifice much for our country. In return, we owe them our professional expertise to help them with the traumas of deployment and the challenges of homecoming.”
Nurses are experts at wellness. From Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War to present day, nurses have cared for both the visible and invisible wounds that veterans and military service members sustain in war. Unfortunately, the signature wounds of current conflicts are the invisible, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Nurses know these injuries impact the military service members’ and veterans’ ability to function and can damage relationships with family and friends. We also know that invisible wounds complicate perceptions of pain and the healing of physical wounds.
With the end of the war in Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan, more than one million service members are projected to leave the military in the next five years. While the VA cares for more than eight million veterans, almost half of veterans and many of their family members will seek care in community settings outside the military and VA systems. Because nursing is the largest healthcare workforce and is present in every community, we care for our military service members, veterans, and their families in every professional setting and know the wounded warriors as our own personal family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
Every nurse should be equipped to understand and recognize the signs of PTSD, TBI, depression, and suicide risk and to know where to send our service members and veterans for help.
Michelle Obama is passionate about ensuring our military and veterans’ mental health needs are addressed. The White House is asking us to stand together and demonstrate leadership on this issue to improve the quality of care to our military service members, veterans, and families.
We invite you to join forces with us, around these criteria:
- Educate America’s future nurses to care for our nation’s veterans, service members, and their families facing post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression, and other clinical issues.
- Enrich nursing education to ensure that current and future nurses are educated and trained in the unique clinical challenges and best practices associated with caring for military service members, veterans, and their families.
- Disseminate the most up-to-date information as it relates to TBI and psychological health conditions, such as PTSD.
- Grow the body of knowledge leading to improvements in health care and wellness for our military service members, veterans, and their families.
- Lead and advance the supportive community of nurses, institutions, and health care providers dedicated to improving the health of military service members, veterans, and their families.
Consider what skills, resources, and expertise you or your organization can provide to support military service members, veterans, and their families – those who sacrifice so much, the services they need. What can you and your organization do to “touch every nurse” and empower them with the education and skills necessary to provide our military service members, veterans, and their families our best care?
To join forces with the profession of nursing to inspire and prepare each nurse to recognize the unique health and wellness concerns of this population, and thereby improving the lives of those who have sacrificed to preserve our freedom, please go to www.ANAJoiningForces.org and pledge your active support in this initiative. ANA will collect pledges in order to quantify the impact of this national effort.
For more information about the Joining Forces initiative, go to www.nursingworld.org.