Military medics are on the front lines everyday saving lives; they are the battlefield’s first responders. Yet many military medics who want to work as nurses, physician assistants or in other health care jobs when they leave the military, are often not given credit or credentials for the skills they developed while serving.
In August of this year, President Obama told the story of Nick Colgin:
When Nick was in Afghanistan, he served as a combat medic with the 82nd Airborne. Over the course of his deployment, Nick saved the life of a French soldier who was shot in the head and helped 42 people escape from a flooding river. He earned a Bronze Star for his actions. But when Nick got back home to Wyoming, he couldn’t get a job as a first responder. So he ended up having to take classes through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, classes he easily could have taught, just so he could qualify for the same duties at home that he was doing every single day in Afghanistan.
To respond to the challenges Nick and his colleagues have encountered, last month, the Obama Administration announced an initiative to align accreditation requirements for nursing programs with medic training so that military medics can receive academic credit for their service. Beginning in fiscal year 2012, the Administration is giving priority to nurse training programs that serve veterans when awarding grants. In fiscal year 2011, these nursing training programs awarded more than $102 million to schools of nursing and other training programs.
Today, the Obama Administration announced two new initiatives to help create jobs for veterans. The announcement is one in a series of Executive actions that will help put Americans back to work and strengthen the economy.
Hiring 8,000 Veterans in Three Years: The Community Health Center Veterans Hiring Challenge
Today, the Obama Administration challenged Community Health Centers to hire 8,000 veterans – approximately one veteran per health center site – over the next three years. The health reform law provides funding for community health centers to serve more Americans and hire more workers. Additionally, HHS will ask centers to start reporting on the number of veterans that they employ. The Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, Labor, and Veterans Affairs will work together to connect veterans to the health clinics’ job openings. The National Association of Community Health Centers will also contribute to this effort and joined the Administration in announcing this Community Health Center Veterans Hiring Challenge.
Health centers improve the health of the nation and assure access to quality primary health care services at more than 8,000 service delivery sites around the country. They are also an integral source of local employment and economic growth in many underserved and low-income communities. Thanks in part to support from the Affordable Care Act, since the beginning of 2009, health centers across the country have added more than 18,600 new full-time positions in many of the nation’s most economically distressed communities. In 2010, they employed more than 131,000 staff, including veterans who serve as Physician Assistants, Administrators, Pharmacy Directors, outreach workers, eligibility assistance workers, and patient support staff and health center CEOs. Veterans who are committed to serving their country and their communities are well suited to serve in a number of capacities at community health centers.
Helping Veterans Become Physician Assistants
To fast-track medics into jobs in community health centers and other parts of the health care system, today the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) pledged to open up career-paths beyond nursing and expand opportunities for veterans to become physician assistants. Through this initiative, HRSA will begin to give priority in physician assistant grant awards to universities and colleges that help train veterans for careers as physician assistants. Through the Affordable Care Act, Recovery Act, and appropriations in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, $45 million has been invested to support accredited physician assistant training programs. Currently, there are 57 active physician assistant training grants.
To expand the number of training programs that accommodate veterans, the Administration also will identify model programs that offer expedited curricula for veterans and that offer enhanced veteran recruiting, retention, and mentoring services. The initiative will engage all physician assistant programs in learning how to replicate these models so that programs across the country can create better training and career pathways for veterans. HRSA will start by providing technical assistance to more than 21 institutions beginning the week of Veterans Day. These institutions represent those with active veteran programs who can share best practices and strategize for further outreach to the 159 accredited physician assistants programs across the country, extending the reach beyond those that receive HRSA funds.
The physician assistant profession has a long history of working with the military. Some of the first physician assistants were members of the military who used their considerable medical training during their military service to help meet health care needs at home. Today, physician assistants are an important part of the health care workforce who practice as part of a team with physicians and provide services such as physicals, basic emergency care, counseling and follow-up care. They deliver care in nearly one in ten visits to community health centers. There are about 81,000 physician assistants in the U.S.
President Obama’s Commitment to Veterans
Today’s initiatives build on the President’s commitment to create a 21st century health care workforce. Thanks to the Recovery Act, the Affordable Care Act and ongoing appropriations, we are on a path to add thousands of primary care practitioners to the system through enhanced training and support for health care workers. Since 2008, Recovery Act and Affordable Care Act funding has led to a near tripling of the National Health Service Corps to over 10,000. The Recovery Act also supported the training of 5,124 students to join the health information technology workforce, helping to lower health care costs by reducing paperwork.
The Obama Administration has also taken a series of steps to help create jobs for veterans and reduce veteran unemployment: