Nursing students gain clinical experience in Veterans Administration apprenticeship program

By Mandi Enger

With the start of the fall semester at Nevada State College (NSC), six senior nursing students proudly began work within the Veterans Administration Learning Opportunities Residency (VALOR) Program offered by the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System. The highly competitive clinical program allows accepted nursing students to complete up to 400 hours of classroom work and competency-based clinical practice under the supervision of a qualified registered nurse (RN) preceptor.

To apply, nursing students must have completed their junior year, have a 3.0 GPA, and submit reference letters from two faculty members and the dean of nursing. Candidates are then interviewed by a panel prior to being accepted into the program.

The VALOR program requires that students maintain their credit course load while providing opportunities for a paid clinical experience, said retired Air Force Lt Col Beverly Canfield, a current lecturer in the school of nursing. The Veterans Administration (VA) is an organized healthcare system that provides a supportive environment for healthcare workers.

A national program, VALOR additionally works to retain nurses within VA facilities.

Our veterans deserve the best and NSC School of Nursing graduates students who are well-trained and give quality care, continued Canfield. It's a win-win situation. Many students go on to have life-long careers in the VA system.

Sarah Day, a senior in the NSC nursing program, was accepted into VALOR and started the program in early July. Working in the program full-time during the summer and taking on several shifts each week throughout the fall semester, Day has built confidence in her skills and patient care that will be beneficial post-graduation.

I started out on mental health as there are a great deal of psych issues for VA patients (specifically post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and suicide ideation), and I am currently on the med/surg floor, said Day. I believe that having this additional experience on the floor will give me an edge and make me a better contender for potential nursing jobs.

This experience has taught me time management skills, added Jaime Johnston, a second NSC student in the program who plans to apply for a full-time position at a VA hospital post-graduation.

Participants are also given the opportunity to attend nursing-focused seminars, trainings and conferences. During this semester, Day, Johnston and other NSC students have taken continuing education courses on topics including the basic electrocardiogram (EKG), organ donation, ethics in donation, disaster training, and Prevention and Management of Disruptive Behavior (PMDB).

I feel that working as a VALOR nurse apprentice has really provided me with a great opportunity to get into a rhythm and hone my organizational and assessment skills which are imperative for nursing, said Day. I m fortunate to have been selected for the VALOR program and would encourage any other nursing student to apply for it. The veteran population is extremely genuine and I am so glad I had this opportunity.

Both Day and Johnston are working to complete their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees in December of 2012.

For more information on VALOR or for details on how to apply for the program, please contact the School of Nursing by emailing nursing@nsc.edu.

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