Minn. college program helps military medics become nurses
Lake Superior College's new seven-month program provides the education needed for military medics to work as civilian licensed practical nurses
By Lisa Kaczke
Duluth News Tribune
DULUTH, Minn. — Military medics now have a path to more quickly become civilian nurses in Minnesota with a program that takes advantage of their experience.
Lake Superior College's new seven-month program provides the education needed for current and veteran military medics to work as civilian licensed practical nurses in Minnesota. The Military Bridge Medic-to-LPN Program is the only program of its kind in the state, said Deb Amys, director of nursing programs at Lake Superior College.
"We're very proud of it. We're proud to be able to provide this opportunity for our servicemen and women," Amys said. "They're coming in with skill sets that — wow. All we are going to do is make sure that they have the skill sets at the level they need for a practical nurse and that they're crisp on (the skills) again."
Amys noted that Jacqueline Semaan, the faculty member teaching the curriculum, began her career as a nurse in the U.S. Navy and has a passion for the program. Semaan said she appreciates the opportunity to give back to veterans through her work.
"When you're in the military, you give of yourself 24/7 and to be able to help facilitate a transition to an area that I'm very passionate about — I love nursing, I love caring for people — to help our military individuals fulfill those dreams and to honor their experiences, I feel very fortunate to be able to work with these individuals," Semaan said.
The Medic-to-LPN program is a way to get veterans into the workforce right away, said David Martin, the regional veterans education coordinator at Lake Superior College. Their skill sets transfer to the civilian world because they're dependable and responsible, coupled with the medic training. In the program, they also have the benefit of studying alongside other servicemembers and veterans, and access to the college's Veterans Resource Center.
"They get the advantage of working with their peers, which are also in the military, and working as a group unit that they're used to. ... That's No. 1; they can support each other there and we do have a thriving veterans center on the campus that they can come in here and have a cup of coffee or study or whatever they need to do," Martin said.
The LPN program is the college's second military bridge program. It also offers a popular program for veterans who were trained as physical therapy personnel to become civilian physical therapy assistants. Martin said he'd like to see these types of programs more widely offered.
"I like to think that LSC is breaking ground on programs like this," Martin said.
Building the program
The Medic-to-LPN program came out of a federal directive to lessen the barriers to civilian careers for servicemembers upon leaving the military. In Minnesota, military bridge programs are being designed for veterans to become law enforcement, paramedics and LPNs.
"The focus is to provide our military, who are leaving active duty with a lot of experience, an avenue to use that experience in the civilian world and not to have to jump through so many hoops and start at ground zero again, but to honor the strengths that they're coming to us with and give them credit for that and get them out into the work world in a safe and shortened timeframe," Semaan said.
To create the Medic-to-LPN program, staff turned to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing's analysis of the skill sets that medics in each military branch have or are lacking compared to civilian nurses.
Military medics are very skill-oriented and typically come into the civilian nursing profession with more skills than a typical nurse performs, Amys said. The college's program will teach students which interventions a nurse can legally do in Minnesota and provide students with the theory behind the skills, Amys said. The program will also provide them with the skills to help patients of all ages in a variety of health care settings, including maternity, pediatric, gerontology and psycho-social care.
Speaking from experience, Semaan said, "You are told what you are needed to do, but there's not always enough theoretical background for you to understand why you're doing what you're doing so we're supplementing that. They're learning about all the different body systems and disease processes and how, as a licensed practical nurse, they would care for those individuals, giving them high quality, safe care."
It's not unusual for Lake Superior College to have veterans enroll in its nursing program, but they don't always identify themselves as veterans to school staff, Amys said.
"Sometimes they do and we have given them some credit for their previous learning if they're in our (registered nurse) program, but it's not to the degree that they are getting with this customized program," Amys said.
The program's first cohort of military medics began in January with two students and college staff hopes to increase that to a maximum of 10 students in each cohort. They're also working to expand the program in the future to include civilian paramedics who want to enter the nursing profession, Amys said.
Students in the college's regular LPN program begin classes in September and then the military medics join in January. The medics take some classes as a separate group and some classes with the other LPN students, Amys said. After a semester of classes, the medics will complete clinical work in May and June and then be able to take the state's LPN licensing test. From there, they can work as an LPN in the health care industry or continue with schooling to become a registered nurse.
Semaan said she hopes that, upon completing the program, students have a desire to help others, remember that it's a person and not a diagnosis that they're caring for, and have the ability to provide "safe, high quality care, compassionate care."
Overall, the program offers veterans the ability to earn a good wage as a LPN, which "we felt was really important because they do have many life skills and experience that we can draw upon and licensed practical nurses are utilized in all facets of health care," Semaan said.
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