Wednesday, June 24, 2009

From Military Medic to Mainstream Nurse: A Few Changes Could Ease Nurse Shortage

A large aging population coupled with too few nurses being educated equals a massive shortage of nurses. There’s nothing new about that equation. Possible solutions for a fix are regularly bandied about but I recently read of one that is new to me and one that makes perfect sense.

Edward J. Halloran, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, associate professor in the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill put the idea on the table in a recent viewpoint article in the American Journal of Nursing (June 2009).

Halloran pointed out that just the U.S. Army alone, among our branches of military, has 13,000 medics currently serving and prepares another 8,000 annually to serve as active duty replacements and also for service in the Army Reserve and National Guard.

Halloran has reviewed the army manual for medics and believes that what they learn is equal to or even greater than that of associate-degreed nurses and RNs who are products of accelerated programs for college graduates with undergraduate degrees in other fields.

While military medics are well trained and could move into nursing careers following their military service, all but one state have requirements for licensure that are road blocks to this transition. Only West Virginia allows discharged medics to sit for some health care practitioner exams, including the NCLEX-RN, without completing further training.

Nursing isn’t the only profession to take a hard line and resist allowing into its fold practitioners who can successfully test, yet haven’t completed certain aspects of traditional professional education, but is that a wise stance?

Given the critical state of our diminished supply of nurses, doesn’t it make sense, as Halloran suggests, that state legislators reassess current regulations to expedite the process for medics to gain RN certification during or after military service?

Halloran points out that beginning in 2011 all branches of the military will, for the first time, train medics together in one facility at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. It is his thought that adjustments be made to increase nursing and medical science aspects of that training program, and gear it to give medics the skills they will need for later certification as RNs.

It certainly does seem that we are closing the door on what could be thousands of potential RNs by refusing to make changes in the certification process. With nursing schools unable to graduate anywhere near the number of nurses we need, Halloran’s idea of morphing military medic training into an as yet untapped source for producing nurses seems truly inspired.

What do you think? Should concessions be made for medics to sit for RN exams?

1 comment:

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