Within the armed forces, thousands of medics and corpsmen are trained to care for service members, Veterans, and their families in Department of Defense hospitals and clinics around the world. These individuals have experience and robust knowledge about medical care and patient safety both in the hospital and deployed setting. Although their training is not represented with a degree, programs like the Veteran to Bachelors of Science in Nursing Program (VCARE) at the University of South Florida (USF) College of Nursing allow medic and corpsman Veterans to apply their education, training, and experience to earn a degree through an accelerated BSN program.
The VCARE Program at USF is designed for service members and Veterans who have completed training as medics or corpsmen in the Army, Air Force, or Navy. This student-centered program acknowledges and recognizes the education, training, and experience each student brings. Veterans can enroll in an accelerated four-semester nursing program, receive support to successfully pass the NCLEX exam, and earn their Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN). With this, highly qualified and trained individuals can begin working in the field sooner than a traditional BSN program would allow. This program has brought meaningful work to many Veterans, including Amanda Klawinski, BSN, RN, who currently works at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center in Lakeland, Fla. Read on to learn about her story and how this program allowed her to find a new career in midwifery and women’s health nursing.
Nursing Notes (NN): Could you tell us a little bit about your background?
Amanda: After high school, I enrolled in the pre-nursing program at USF. However, during my second semester I joined the Army and served as a medic for almost five years. During my time in the Army, I continued my education at a community college on base and completed a General Associates Degree. After I was medically discharged from the Army, I reenrolled at USF to finish all my pre-requisites and apply to the VCARE nursing program that I had discovered during my last year in the military.
NN: Could you tell us more about your military career?
Amanda: In the Army, I was a medic stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen, Tex., in the First Cavalry Division. Initially, I worked in a clinic on base as a member of the treatment platoon. I also went to Fort Bragg for selection to be a part of a Cultural Support Team (CST), which are comprised of female soldiers who are trained to support U.S. Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) in scenarios where such engagement would be culturally unacceptable for the male ARSOF soldiers to perform. I completed training, but unfortunately sustained an injury that did not allow me to go on the mission I trained for. Therefore, I returned to Fort Hood as a member of the Evacuation Platoon, and conducted medical coverage for ranges and events. I also worked in a field aid station in both Kuwait and Iraq. When I became a sergeant, I was then in charge of my own squad in the Evacuation Platoon and had the responsibility of making sure that squad members were proficient in their medical skills, physical training, and range qualification with their weapon.
NN: What is the Veteran to Bachelor’s (VCARE) program?
Amanda: VCARE is a bridge program for those who have served or are still serving in the military as medics or corpsmen to get their BSN without having to restart their education. The program accounts for the education, training, skills, and experience service members and Veterans have. It is a back-to-back, four-semester program tailored to the abilities of each student. Ultimately, the program allows for faster completion of a degree that would otherwise take several years. The program is very rigorous and holds all students in the program to the highest of standards and expectations.
NN: How did VCARE facilitate your transition from military medic to nurse?
Amanda: The VCARE program made my transition from military medic to nurse much easier than I thought it was going to be. The program helped me hone in on my scope of practice and think like a nurse instead of a medic. VCARE provided all the support I needed to be successful, and I really feel like I wouldn’t be where I am at today without this program.
NN: Could you describe your day-to-day life as a new nurse?
Amanda: I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to start out on the Mother-Baby Unit at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center. It helped me find my passion for midwifery and women’s health nursing, and I will be starting Georgetown University’s CM/WHNP program in January 2018.
At first, my day-to-day life was a little hectic because I was learning to prioritize and manage my time effectively. The more experienced nurses were great resources and very helpful. Now that I have been a nurse for almost a year, my day-to-day schedule is much more manageable, taking care of three or four mom and baby couplets at a time. Regardless, there is always something new to learn each day. There are still days that I need help, but I have excellent team members that I can turn to for help.
NN: What does being a nurse mean to you?
Amanda: Being a nurse means that I strive to provide the best patient-centered care possible every single day. It means that I take the time to listen to patients’ concerns, answer their questions, and be there for them whenever they may need me. It means respecting my patients, being honest, having integrity, and always being their advocate.