School of Nursing and Veterans Affairs Formalize New Partnership

By Lee Lewis Husk

A collaboration, dubbed the Veterans Affairs Nursing Academic Partnership (VANAP), opens new educational channels for OHSU nursing students while creating a pool of nurses well versed on the health care needs of veterans, according to Laura Mood, R.N., M.S.N., clinical instructor at the nursing school and co-director of VANAP. “Our role is to introduce all our students to veteran-centric concepts, with a subset of them spending the majority of their clinical experiences in facilities where veterans receive health care”.

The Oregon collaborative is among six VANAP programs selected by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to form partnerships that promote safe and effective care of veterans. The Oregon VANAP will receive approximately $4 million over the next five years, with funding split between the nursing school (Portland and Ashland campuses) and veteran health care facilities in Portland, Roseburg and White City.

“The cool thing about this grant is it allows staff nurses who have worked in the VA system for years to gain faculty appointments with the OHSU School of Nursing while remaining VA employees,” says Michele Cooper, R.N., M.S., nurse educator at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Portland and co-director with Mood. “The VA faculty who are experts on veteran care will pair up with OHSU’s excellent teaching staff.

The program funds five faculty positions the first and fifth years of the program, and a total of 10 positions in years two, three, and four.

Sophomore student enrollment will increase by 24 this year, and by the third and fourth years the school will have 60 students from sophomores to seniors. The increases will accrue at the Portland and Ashland campuses, and students in VANAP will experience most of their clinical rotations across VA health care settings.

“From OHSU, our faculty can provide coaching and mentoring on teaching-learning to clinical experts in the VA system. Conversely, VA nurses will help faculty and students become better versed in the special needs of veterans,” says Mood.

In addition to common acute and chronic medical problems seen in the civilian population, veterans have conditions associated with military service, such as traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma and complications from exposure to nuclear, biologic and chemical warfare.

Mood emphasizes that VANAP will impact all undergraduate nursing students, not just those selected for the program. “Our role is to introduce veteran-centric concepts within the curriculum so that all of our graduates are familiar with the specific needs of this growing population.”

Cooper says that unlike the other U.S. sites where one VA site and one school are paired, Oregon’s program includes two nursing campuses and three VA sites at opposite ends of the state. “Our veterans are everywhere, and we felt we had the resources and relationships to make it work.”


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