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Shenandoah University awarded $1.2M to educate military veterans

shenandoah u logoShenandoah University’s Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing is now at the forefront of identifying and educating military veterans pursuing the field of professional nursing. The university is one of nine institutions across the country participating in a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Shenandoah’s project, for which more than $1.2 million in federal funding has been recommended, aims to identify and enroll veterans who received medical training and gained experience while they were in the service, and to help those individuals transition into the civilian workforce as bachelor degree-prepared nurses.

“With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, thousands of medically-trained personnel are separating from military service with valuable skills,” said Associate Dean for Academics Pamela Cangelosi, Ph.D., who will direct the project.

“One would expect their skills to logically translate into civilian health care professions such as nursing, where large workforce shortages are projected for the future. Yet, universities have not developed ways to fully evaluate veterans’ past experiences for the purpose of awarding nursing credit,” Dr. Cangelosi continued. “These men and women have had high-quality training and have acted independently in the most difficult circumstances imaginable to save lives and care for their fellow warriors. They don’t want to re-start their learning from scratch.”

“Our goal is to find innovative and effective ways for veterans to earn credit for past training, ease their transition into higher education, provide a supportive learning environment, and prepare them to enter rewarding professional nursing careers where they can continue to serve the nation in new ways,” Cangelosi added.

Veterans enrolling in Shenandoah’s nursing program will find themselves among educators with first-hand knowledge of the challenges faced by former military personnel and their families.

Nursing faculty member retired Air Force Nurse Corps Maj. Sherry Rawls-Bryce, who elected to retire at 15 years, will serve as academic adviser for veterans who become students through the project. She will teach a course that helps these students transition into the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program and a course that will likewise help them prepare for licensure exams and transition into the world of professional nursing as they graduate.

“We instantly knew that this grant opportunity was a great fit for Shenandoah’s nursing school,” said Rawls-Bryce. “With so many faculty members who have past military experience involved in this grant, we have a unique opportunity to provide a great service to veterans. I look forward to educating these new students and offering dedicated mentoring to help them with this exciting transition into civilian health care.”

Two additional nursing faculty members who have past military experience will work closely with veteran students. Retired Air Force Nurse Corps Lt. Col. Gretchen L. Burks will assess students’ clinical skills. Burks spent 30 years in the West Virginia Air National Guard Medical Group and retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Of those 30 years, Burks spent 15 years working with staff development and evaluating skills for medical personnel.

Retired Navy Nurse Corps Capt. Rosalie D. Lewis will coordinate the students’ clinical placements. Lewis served 24 years in active duty spanning two major wars, Vietnam and the Gulf War. She retired at the rank of Captain.

In addition, Cangelosi has been around the military since childhood as the daughter of a Navy captain. Dean Kathryn Ganske, Ph.D., RN, has a son, Lt. Christopher Ganske, who recently separated from the U.S. Navy to enter graduate school. He was active military for more than eight years and will now serve as a reservist.

Shenandoah University expects to recruit more than 175 veterans with prior medical experience into its BSN program, and to graduate approximately 80 students during the four-year project. HRSA has fully funded Shenandoah University’s project in the amount of $312,025 in the first year, and has recommended support in subsequent years of the project, for a total of $1,228,486.