TWU and Dallas VA form $3.5 million partnership

TWU Dallas college of nursing forms partnership to ensure veterans receive best care, nurses prepared for career in veteran care

Aerial view of Dallas VA Hospital

Dallas Veterans Affair Medical Center. Photo provided by VA Public Affairs

12/15/15

The call to serve: it’s at the core of what makes both veterans and nurses who they are. As a Military Friendly institution, Texas Woman’s University understands the special needs of veterans and the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) facilities that treat them.  Continuing this commitment to veterans, the university has become part of the national Veterans Affairs Nursing Academic Partnership (VANAP) to ensure veterans continue to receive the best care possible and that TWU student nurses are well positioned for careers in veteran care.

The VANAP is an innovative education and practice collaboration between VA facilities and nursing programs to ensure quality veteran care now and in the future.   The TWU Houston J. and Florence A. Doswell College of Nursing  in Dallas recently became part of the VANAP under the leadership of Stephanie Woods, Ph.D., associate dean of nursing at the T. Boone Pickens Institute of Health Sciences—Dallas Center.  This partnership will yield approximately $3.5 million in funding for  TWU nursing faculty for the next five years.

“The partnership with the VA gives us the opportunity to expand our clinical spaces in the VA hospital for our students, and allows us to hire more nursing faculty,” said Dr. Stephanie Woods, associate dean of the College of Nursing. “Our students are asked if they would like a clinical rotation at the VA hospital and if they would like to undergo a more in-depth and rigorous experience at the VA.” 

There are more than 21 million veterans in the United States and more than 1.5 million veterans in Texas, with an increasing female veteran population, and an aging nursing workforce.  The goal of the VANAP program is to partner with university nursing programs, like TWU’s College of Nursing, to provide educational and employment opportunities for future nurses.

Students who participate are advised by faculty and directors with a deep understanding and experience with VA culture, and who are committed to making the experience and program a success.

In addition to providing clinical rotations and faculty, the VANAP program increases hiring opportunities for student nurses as student nurse technicians (SNT) while they are in nursing school.  Additional programs like the Veterans Affairs Learning Opportunity Residency (VALOR) program allows students to work as a SNT  in addition to having in-depth experiences in VA nursing.  Students who have participated in the SNT or VALOR program also have better chances of being hired into a post-baccalaureate residency program once they graduate and obtain licensure as full time registered nurses.  Nurses employed with the VA receive overwhelming support including tuition reimbursement and the unique licensure to work at any VA facility across the country. 

“Once employed by the VA, your service, benefits, and license transfer with any nurse that relocates to a different VA facility in any part of the country; not requiring a re-licensing in a new state,” said Woods.

She continued, “Ultimately, this is a win-win situation for everyone.  Our students are educated, we increase our faculty through partnership and increased funding, and we provide career opportunities for our students in a field where the workforce is beginning to retire.”

This project hits home for Woods, who herself is a veteran. “I was active duty Air Force, and certainly from that perspective, value the care provided to veterans,” she said.  “Beyond caring for veterans at a VA facility, as a nurse I have encountered veterans in every care setting.”

In addition to all the exposure TWU is giving students to the local VA, the university also is providing a veteran-centric curriculum, so students can better learn how to care for veterans in any setting. 

“We are developing innovative lectures, clinical labs and even a standardized veteran family,” Woods said.  “This in-depth exposure uniquely prepares TWU graduates to care for the specific needs of veterans, thus making a difference to our veteran population and setting the TWU Houston J. and Florence A. Doswell College of Nursing apart from others.”  

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