Helping veterans transition to nursing careers

Stress is at an all-time high for nurses, affecting their own health and potentially the well-being of patients. While demand for nurses rises fast, those in higher education are working to help send their graduates into the real world well-prepared for workplace challenges. Last week as part of a two-part series on a condition so prevalent it’s now called Nursing Burnout Syndrome, we looked at how the Keigwin School of Nursing at Jacksonville University is emphasizing quality, safety, mindfulness, self-care and simulation training to help address the issue. Today, we report on the school’s specific efforts to aid veterans studying nursing, as they transition back to civilian life and higher education. A major Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant for veterans in the Keigwin School has had a domino effect on the campus to ensure the success of military nursing students to enter their chosen career field of nursing. To help veteran students achieve their goals and graduate from the Veterans Bachelor of Science in Nursing (VBSN) program, they can train in HeartMath. With decades of research into building resiliency, optimal performance and addressing stress, this biofeedback-assisted stress management program focuses on building and enhancing resilience and self-regulatory skills. “Think about HeartMath as a way to visualize the internal activation of our body’s response to stress, in real time,” said Kyle Fessenden, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified HeartMath trainer and VBSN program counselor. With some basic understanding of how the stress response works and its impact on performance, HeartMath teaches users skills and mental tools to manage their body’s physical responses with maximum efficiency. “By being in this ‘zone’ of max efficiency, it allows the user to access their mental resources with less resistance from the body’s stress response. In practical terms, this allows students to recall information quicker, improve reaction times, encode new information more efficiently, cope better with the unexpected and return to normal quicker after stressful events,” said Fessenden. “It can mean the difference between rushing through and missing an answerable question on an exam or remaining calm and pulling that correct answer from memory.” Christopher Day, 32, a VBSN sophomore who served in the Navy for 11 years from 2005 to 2017, said he appreciates JU’s attention paid to students’ lives, both in and out of the classroom. “I saw the presentation at our (veterans) orientation and wanted to try out HeartMath,” he said. “I’m trying to get acclimated and it’s a whirlwind. Our professors always talk about new methods for studying strategies, and I think this will help with studying stress, and also in real life dealing with pressures, traffic, getting to sleep, your mind just racing and other things.” Additional resources Tutoring is also offered to veteran nursing students in the personal counseling they receive by Program Director Dr. Lynnette Kennison and other faculty members who reach out to these students. In addition, veterans and students in JU’s Navy Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program (MECP) are offered access to PassPoint, a fee-based, multifaceted learning resource to help them succeed on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Graduating students are given codes to activate their personal accounts during their senior year. The codes are available for 12 months from the date of activation. The real-time performance data allows the students to identify their own strengths and weaknesses before taking the test. Camille Howard, VBSN program coordinator, said students appreciate that the practice exams mimic the actual test, but are not static. Some have offered feedback such as, “The more I take the practice exams, the more information I can review because the same questions do not reappear during each test.” Recently, Dr. Kennison and Fessenden were trained in a new therapy called Accelerated Resolution Therapy to help veterans resolve trauma issues and even reduce anxiety. It is now available at JU for veterans who carry trauma memories or have anxiety issues with exams or other stressors. The HRSA grant has complemented other JU programs for success for all military students. “Green Zone” training is provided to all faculty, staff and administration by Brigadier General (retired) Mike Fleming, senior vice president for University Relations and Development at JU, to assure a baseline of knowledge about military service. In addition, the University’s Defender’s Den is a resource for military students only, providing computers, camaraderie and food supplied by the USO. Learn more about the Keigwin School of Nursing at http://www.ju.edu/chs/nursing/.

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