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Nursing Program Just for Veterans

By Reyna Gobel

Illinois community college will offer an eight-week certificate program that will turn military medics into licensed practical nurses.

Military veterans are returning to civilian life with marketable skills, but they often need gap training and education to turn what they learned during their time in the military into a job. For example, military medics who receive additional training can fill in-demand nursing jobs.

Beginning in March 2015, Joliet Junior College (JJC) in Illinois will offer an eight-week Military Medical Corpsman to Practical Nurse certificate program, which will allow former military medics to become licensed practical nurses (LPN).

How the program came together

JJC’s program started at a high level: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn issued a directive to Illinois community colleges to train military medics for civilian work. Three community colleges — JJC, College of DuPage and Illinois Central College — were asked to pioneer the program, with the help of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Illinois Board of Nursing.

“First, we had to find out what the education training gaps were for our veterans,” says Mary Magruder, department chair of nursing, allied health and emergency services at JJC. The Illinois Board of Nursing determined that the military’s closest match to the state’s practical nursing program curriculum is the curriculum for the Medical Education and Training Campus Basic Medical Technician Corpsman Program.

So it made sense to have the JJC  program fill the gaps in that piece of military medical training. The three colleges formed a steering committee of deans, department chairs and instructors to develop an eight-week program to do just that, preparing students for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses, which offers licensure as an LPN.

The planning process wasn’t too arduous. “Planning began in December 2012, but we’ve only had a few steering committee meetings,” Magruder says. “Everything else was coordinated by phone and email.”

The Illinois Department of Veterans’ of Affairs is sending information on the program to veterans who were military medics, and the Air Force and Navy are mentioning the program in welcome home letters. All veterans who completed the Medical Education and Training Campus’s Basic Medical Technician Corpsman Program in the last five years qualify for admission; veterans with practical work experience who graduated more than five years ago can also enroll.

“We hope the program will spread to all Illinois community college campuses,” Magruder says.

Looking to launch a similar program for military veterans at your college? Magruder offers the following tips:

Coordinate with your state’s veterans affairs department. The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs gave JJC information on the population of medics in the state. “We also coordinated sending out letters to veterans returning home with the military branches,” Magruder says.

Work with your state’s nursing board. The program’s goal is to get medics approved as LPNs. Therefore, JJC worked with the Illinois Board of Nursing, which was involved in creating and approving the curriculum for this program.

Create alliances in the community. JJC needed lab facilities for students in this program, o the college partnered with extended-care facilities, which treat patients ranging from those recovering from surgery to those needing longer-term care.

Reyna Gobel

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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